The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

The content originally appeared on: The Anguillian Newspaper

The University of the West Indies Open Campus, Anguilla, commemorated the University’s 75th anniversary with a special Service of Thanksgiving which was held on Sunday afternoon, January 22nd, at the Ebenezer Methodist Church, in the Valley.

Several public figures, most of them dubbed Pelicans of the institution’s Alma Mater, were designated to deliver presentations with regard to the significance of the university’s longstanding work and history, under its motto: Oriens Ex Occidente Lux, which, being translated is: “A Light Rising from the West”. This motto pays credence to the origin of the University, which was initially established in Jamaica, in the Western Caribbean region.

The service was moderated by Methodist Minister, Rev. Vincia Celestine.

Dr. Phyllis Fleming-Banks

Open Campus Manager, Dr. Phyllis Fleming-Banks, greeted the Pelicans — and the gathering in general — with a cordial welcome, and boosted the work of UWI through Open Campus Sites in the region. “It is an honour to welcome you to this Service of Thanksgiving commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the University of the West Indies,” Dr. Fleming-Banks stressed.“We, at the UWI Open Campus, are indeed grateful to the pastor and members of the Ebenezer Methodist Church for hosting us and supporting us in this endeavour.”“Rooted, Ready, Rising is the theme for this Diamond Jubilee Year,” she stated. “Although the growth and impact of UWI is now global, the UWI remains firmly grounded with its Caribbean roots.

“So, whether you attended Mona, St. Augustine’s, Cave Hill, Five Islands, or the Open Campus, or if you completed any of the Challenge Programmes or the UWI Teacher Training or Nursing Programmes, if you have participated in the Professional Development Courses, the seminars or the workshops…you are still UWI…Unlike any other, this University is ‘we’. It is rooted in our history and culture and purposefully created to serve our region.”

Premier, Dr. Ellis L. Webster

The Honourable Premier, Dr. Ellis L. Webster, addressed the audience as he highlighted the fact that the Government of Anguilla supports education at every level.“Oriens Ex Occidente Lux, in English is translated: A Light Rising from the West. A light rising from the west presents a challenge,” he said. “It is almost an impossibility. This reminds me of a quote by the late President Nelson Mandella which says, ‘It always seems impossible until it is done.’

“The UWI has done it year after year, generation after generation and country after country. The UWI has withstood the test of time from its inception, as a product of the positive response of our West Indian people to the challenges of change and depravation to the present day. These are words from The University of the West Indies: A Caribbean Response by Philip Manderson Sherlock, Rex M. Nettleford.”

He continued: “It also stated that encouragement, advice and funding came from the colonial authorities and from Britain, but only because of the intellectual quality of the people, their character and capacity for leadership. The faculty, the staff and the students of UWI have continued to display and nurture these attributes over the past seventy -five years — a place of light, liberty and learning; a place of excellence that is maintained through discipline and tenacity of purpose…”

The Premier concluded: “So, on behalf of the Government of Anguilla and the people of Anguilla, I wish to say congratulations to the UWI at 75. You have adapted to the changing times, knowing that change should enlighten and enrich. You are rooted, ready and rising. Pelicans, keep flying high. May God continue to bless the University of the West Indies.”

Other speakers at the service included Mr. Stanley Reid and Mrs. Stellar Horsford. Mr. Reid presented a comprehensive history of the UWI at large, while Mrs. Horsford presented a historical perspective about how Anguilla benefited from UWI’s offerings during the earlier years of the island’s development, as well as the establishment of the Anguilla chapter of the UWI Open Campus site which was ambitiously pioneered by the late Julian Harrigan.

A session of praise and worship was led by a team of UWI Alumni. The Old Testament reading was taken from Deuteronomy 6:1-3; and 10-15. It was presented by Dr. Michelle Queeley. The New Testament passage, Ephesians 2:11-22, was read by Rev. Lindsay Richardson. This was followed by an inspiring Sermon by Canon Reid Simon.

Canon Reid Simon

Canon Simon reflected on the instrumentality of the church and respective governments which, together played pivotal roles in helping to furnish scholarships for study at UWI in times long past: “We are very thankful that through UWI so much has been done for us to help us to mature and grow and to make our contribution as citizens of this Caribbean reality.

“Many of us had benefitted from the generosity of the governments of the region. And along with those who entered for the cause of theological study, we have benefitted from the wellbeing of the church. We thank God for all of that because our scholarship was rooted in the church opening doors for us to pursue our studies.

“As I contemplate on the theme ‘Rooted, Ready and Rising,’ I am mindful that we must first understand our heritage — from where we have come. So I ask the question, how do we understand ourselves in the context of the Caribbean reality — the West Indies region. Many persons love this region.”

The Cannon then analysed a parallel between God’s bidding to the Israelites and His admonition to us Caribbean folk in light of the blessings He had provided us through the virtues of UWI.

“In the passage from Deuteronomy,” he cited, “God made a promise to the children of Israel. I would like to substitute ‘the children of Israel’ here with ‘the people of the region’. Like the Israeltites who can come into a land that was not originally their own, we too were placed in a region that we were not indigenous to. It was the Arawaks and Caribs that owned this region, but greed and the quest for material possession caused them to be exploited and murdered. And we, like the children of Israel, were brought in. We inherited this region. It became our home.

“I believe that we have inherited this land. It is a place that we call home and it is within this region that we are called to tabernacle and dwell and to build our societies. But we have been a people who have not always settled for ‘less than’. We did what it took to make sure that our identity as a people was maintained.”

In a quest to maintain this identity, Canon Reid then zeroed in on the eventual frustrations of the 1940s from which the UWI was birthed. “During this era there were people in our region who became fed up. They became disillusioned with what was coming out of England.

Dr. Michelle QueeleyRev. Lindsay Richardson

He continued: “Historical records show: ‘In 1943 the Commissioner of Higher Education in the colonies asked to consider the principles which should guide the promotion of higher education, learning and research, and the development of universities in the colonies, and to explore means whereby universities and other appropriate bodies in the United Kingdom may be able to cooperate with institutions of higher education in the colonies in order to give effect to these principles.”‘

It was upon this premise that the University of the West Indies was established in 1948 in Mona, Jamaica. It was from this nation in the west that the rising light has spread throughout the rest of the Caribbean region, impacting our people with tertiary educational influences in just about every sphere of professional life. Today, Chancellor Robert Bermudez and Vice-Chancellor Hilary Beckles are at the helm, steering this Caribbean institution from strength to strength. Congratulations are in order for the UWI now at 75.