The baton of leadership of the University of the West Indies is to be passed on in a couple months with the retirement of Sir George Alleyne who will be succeeded by businessman, Robert Bermudez.
When Sir George steps down in July it will be another punctuation point in a career of distinction for the Barbadian surgeon.
He earned the nickname ‘Champ’ because of a sojourn into boxing during high school, and transformed his winning ways from the physical to the academic to blaze a trail of excellence that took him to the top of the hemispheric United Nations Body, the Pan-American Health Organization, then onto the pinnacle of Caribbean academia, Chancellor of the University of the West Indies.
“This chancellor has risen from the classroom to the chancellorship leaving a trail of distinction at each stage, a corridor of high culture and creative consciousness carved through the debris of the early beginnings of our university,” said UWI Vice-Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles, during a farewell dinner hosted by the Cave Hill, Barbados Campus.
“And he did it in classical Caribbean style and fashion, a Caribbean champ, for a Caribbean university... a lesson in loyalty to be admired and celebrated,” Beckles added.
Young George Alleyne demonstrated his loyalty to the Caribbean when upon winning a Barbados scholarship that gave him a choice to pursue tertiary education studies anywhere in the world, he opted to remain in the region and pursue medicine in Jamaica.
“By choosing the University College of the West Indies over Cambridge, he affirmed his faith in the West Indies,” said retired dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Sir Henry Fraser of George Alleyne’s choice to enter the Jamaica college that later became a campus of UWI.
The young Barbadian graduated with a gold medal and honours to earn the description of the Foundation Professor Eric Cruickshank as “the brightest ever medical graduate.”
Principal of the Cave Hill Campus, Eudine Barriteau said, “when I peruse the record and thus legacy of Sir George’s immense and erudite body of work, I experience a profound sense of appreciation and gratitude that Barbados, the Caribbean and our University of the West Indies can produce scholars and international public servants of the character and calibre of Sir George.”
She noted that Sir George co-authored seven books and 186 publications, delivered public lectures, while earning innumerable awards and accolades.
“From his first award in 1957 of the University Gold medal for the best clinical student in medicine, to the 2008, Inter American Heart Foundation Science of Peace Award, and the eighteen regional and international awards which these two bracket, Sir George demonstrates for those who are yet to come, what is indeed possible,” she said of the man who went on to become the Caribbean’s first director of the Pan-American Health Organization for two terms.
Upon retiring from PAHO he became UN special envoy on AIDS, then took up the appointment of chancellor in 2003.
“UWI will not be, and cannot be the same thereafter. He has given of his best, and the rest is to come,” Beckles said.