The University of the West Indies UWI) has lost another of its iconic early graduates with the passing of St Kitts High Commissioner Cedric Harper, whom we at the UWI Museum considered a friend. They say that when an elder dies, a book is closed. It is one of the reasons why it is so important to capture memories when we can.
Museum Curator Suzanne Francis-Brown recalls that conversation with Cedric Harper, in 2003/2004, as part of her research on the history and heritage of the UWI Mona, led to the return to the campus of the Gibraltar Camp Bell, a 1950s/60s focus of rivalry between Chancellor Hall and Taylor Hall men over many years. Cedric told the story of how the bell had mysteriously disappeared from the campus after the rivalry became hot. Asked whether it would not be possible to retrieve the bell, an artifact not only of early hall rivalry but also of the 1940s evacuee camp whose wooden barracks buildings formed the then UCWI’s first home, he considered that it might be possible if various unnamed persons could be convinced that the return of the bell would not spark new, destructive, rivalry. Brief negotiations followed, and with the assurances given, the return was arranged and the bell became centrepiece of a new park at Mona in 2005.
H.E. Cedric Harper came to the then University College of the West Indies (UCWI) at its founding Mona Campus in 1959 as a mature student, having worked as a teacher in his native St Kitts. The 1961-62 Pelican Annual (then the iconic journal of the UWI Guild), notes the graduation of Cedric Lanyon Harper of the St Kitts Grammar School, with a BA degree, specialising in Economics, History and Spanish. He would marry UCWI/University of London medical graduate Barbara Lyle. After a stint as a headmaster in St Kitts, he worked as the UWI’s Resident Representative in the Bahamas from 1966, and joined the staff of the UWI Mona in 1967; lecturing and working as Warden (now, Student Services Manager) at Irvine Hall, 1967-1993 and Dean of Students (now Head of Student Services) until his retirement in 1995. During his time with the UWI, he gained an MSc in Economics (Mona) and an LLB from the University of London, and a Legal Education Certificate (LEC) from the Norman Manley Law School at Mona. From 1995 to 2000, he ran his own law office and from 2001 he served first as High Commissioner for St Kitts and Nevis, in Jamaica, having previously served as Honorary Consul General from 1983 and Consul General from 1999. He died August 29, 2018.
While artifacts are important to interpreting histories, so are the recollections of persons who lived through those times. We welcome written or oral histories relevant to the UWI’s story and that of the region it serves. If you are in contact with UWI graduates or retirees whose stories should be part of our archive, and especially if you can interview them, please help us to enrich our archive.