The founders of the small university established at Mona, Jamaica in 1948 could never have imagined that their little experiment would have grown into the dynamic and distinguished regional institution it has become. The 70th Anniversary of The UWI in 2018 was met with pride, rejoicing, and great enthusiasm for the future, as the University rolled out a year-long programme of signature events designed to celebrate, educate, entertain, and create connections under the theme 70 Years of Service, 70 Years of Leadership.
Celebrations began with an interfaith thanksgiving service at The UWI Chapel in Mona, Jamaica, on January 8, 2018. The service was conducted by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Howard Gregory, Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, who commended The UWI on its contribution to Caribbean development and integration.
He acknowledged the expansion and impact of the institution. "Today this university is able to boast that its graduates have made their mark throughout the Caribbean region as well as globally, in the public and private sectors, in church and state, in the arts, in industry, commerce and education, in medicine and nursing, science and technology, in social work and community development."
In July, Chancellor's Week represented a homecoming of sorts as a diverse and exciting programme of free and paid events lured thousands of alumni, students, staff and guests from across the Caribbean and beyond. It included academic gatherings, an awards function, parties and other entertainment. It provided an opportunity for The UWI's vast alumni network to reconnect, share their success stories and re-engage with the University. Activities included Welcome Gala Reception; Nostalgic Conversations; the much-anticipated Pelican Awards; a discussion panel led by Guild of Students called Pelican Projections: A University for the Future—UWI then, UWI now, UWI to come; The One UWI Festival and T-20 Cricket Match; an all-inclusive UWI All White Breakfast Party, and the Chancellor's Jazz Farewell.
University of London Celebrates The UWI
Like a child of the diaspora reconnecting with its homeland, The UWI turned to the University of London to reflect upon its shared history, given that The UWI first came into existence as a college of that university. The enthusiasm with which the proposed joint 70th Anniversary event was accepted is a clear indicator of the sustained warm relations between the two institutions over the years, and the high regard in which the University is held in the academic sphere.
The celebration was held at the Winston Churchill Room of the University of London's William Goodenough College on November 28, 2018, and hosted by Professor Peter Kopelman, Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, in association with The Rt. Hon. Baroness Patricia Scotland, Secretary General of the Commonwealth.
Vice-Chancellor Beckles commented on the need for a greater intensity in maintaining links with global partners such as the University of London. In response, Baroness Floella Benjamin, newly appointed Patron of the British Foundation for The UWI, reflected upon her journey to the UK as a child of the Windrush, and urged The UWI "to become even more active in the UK, developing strategic partnerships with UK universities."
The celebrations were supported by a special 70th Anniversary Calendar App that allowed stakeholders to stay updated on all planned events. It was designed and developed by a student of The UWI Cave Hill campus, Mr. Theo Taylor, under the supervision of Dr. Janak Sodha, in the Department of Computer Science, Mathematics and Physics.
The finale of the year of celebration, themed Opening The UWI to the World: The Next 70 Years, was hosted by The UWI Open Campus. It featured a look back at the year's most memorable moments and achievements, messages from worldwide partners, and a special keynote address from Vice-Chancellor Beckles on the next phase for a more globally agile and engaged regional University. The event was livestreamed on UWItv which allowed staff, students, alumni, partners and friends all across the globe to share in the virtual celebration.