The Chancellor’s Medal is a rare accolade.
First struck in 1998, the 50th anniversary of the university opening its doors, the June 2017 award to Professor Elsa Leo-Rhynie is the sixth such award; and perhaps the last hurrah of outgoing Chancellor Sir George Alleyne.
Alleyne and Leo-Rhynie represent two generations of service by graduates to their alma mater – the University College of the West Indies (UCWI) turned University of the West Indies (UWI).
‘Champ’ Alleyne was a Barbados scholar who chose the UCWI in 1951 and aced his medical studies there, graduating as a gold medallist in 1957. postgraduate work at the University of London and a stint at the UWI Tropical Metabolism Research Unit were followed by appointment as Professor of Medicine in 1972 and the Chair of the Department four years later. After close to a decade, he moved to the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO), rising to Director. He also served as the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean Region. From 2003 he has been Chancellor of the UWI, a position he demits in July 2017.
His chosen awardee, Prof Elsa Leo-Rhynie studied at the UCWI in the decade after he did, following an BSc in Botany & Zoology with a Diploma in Education and a stint teaching before she returned to the fold to study and teach in the School of Education. Apart from a decade leading the Institute of Management & Production in Kingston, her subsequent focus was on the development of the discipline of gender studies and on administration, as Deputy Principal, PVC Graduate Studies and finally Principal at the UWI’s Mona Campus.
She has five predecessors.
Sir George, the UWI’s fifth Chancellor, previously gave the award to Jamaican Prime Minister Emeritus P.J. Patterson – a UCWI alumnus who has consistently supported the UWI and the region – in 2006; to the university’s first graduate to be Vice-Chancellor, Prof Rex Nettleford in 2009; and to his predecessor Chancellor, former Commonwealth Secretary General Sir Shridath Ramphal in 2011. Sir Shridath had first struck the medal in the UWI’s 50th year, 1998, when it was given first to Sir Philip Sherlock, one of the university’s founding fathers; and then to Sir Alister McIntyre, academic and international public servant, on his retirement from a decade’s service as the university’s Vice-Chancellor.
The criteria for the medal relate to signal service, with lasting impact, in achieving UWI’s enduring regional mission; delivering skills and knowledge needed for regional growth and development.