In this Holiday Season, we are privileged to present to you the second feature article of our leadership series – Leadership Matters. This article was written by the Antiguan-born Dr. Eugene F. Daniel. Dr. Daniel, before his retirement, served as an outstanding pastor, theologian and denominational administrator. He is a former President of the Caribbean Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and in this capacity he served as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University of the Southern Caribbean, his alma mater during the critical period of its transition to university status. Dr. Daniel is also an author who very recently published a book entitled Saturday’s Child Becoming: Where Life Meets Growth Learning Thought and Service (available on amazon.com).
As we celebrate Christmas with its almost inescapable sensory appeals – its food, music, decorations, olfactory delights the warmth of the love of family and friends and all else that engenders joy and goodwill, may we never forget that in our low estate God chose to be with us, to be one of us so that we could be with Him. No greater example of leadership can ever be found – Emmanuel!
Happy holidays and God’s richest blessings for the coming year.
Jesus: The Quintessential Leader
When we consider leadership in human affairs, a crucial inquiry arises: Which individuals have the qualities to effectively perform this significant role? Answering this question incorrectly can have far-reaching ramifications, leading to serious consequences such as bankruptcy, conflict, military defeat, economic decline, and even the downfall of nations. Therefore, organizations should engage in thoughtful decision-making and allocate sufficient resources to gather and analyze data, enabling them to make informed decisions in appointing persons to lead.
The University of the Southern Caribbean recognizes the importance of leadership as a valuable skill, and this essay serves as a meaningful contribution to the ongoing discussion. USC’s primary aim is to instill and nurture strong leadership capabilities in every learner because leadership matters. This essay offers readers a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics that inform leadership from above, or within organizations.
We begin our conversation by defining the term ‘leadership’ and thereafter explore the various roles and responsibilities we task leaders with. These aspects are indispensable for the triumph of an organization. Without a clear understanding of the role and responsibilities of a leader, any organization risks its proficiency in achieving desired outcomes. This proficiency goes beyond just having expertise; it also involves the capacity to inspire, motivate, and influence others toward a shared goal.
A successful leader learns and develops leadership skills. The ideal candidate for this leading role should demonstrate the skill of self-awareness, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and be open to receiving feedback from their team. Cultivating an environment that fosters a feeling of security is part of their responsibility—empowering individuals to explore new avenues and courageously embrace diverse ideas and perspectives.
One of the major factors that determines the effectiveness of a leader, as discussed in the leadership literature, is their capability to prioritize the needs of others above their own. This approach gives priority to key elements, such as humility, service, empowerment, and sacrifice. Dedicated leaders create an inclusive and empowering work environment and prioritize serving their team, making sure that each individual feels valued and motivated to contribute through their unique talents.
Over the years, I have been involved in the discipline of leading and developing leaders with the craft and will to effect change. Sometimes I voiced the view that a leader in an organization is not necessarily the person with the title. Many times, the leader is the individual asking and answering the important questions relevant to organizational success.
In discussions about leadership styles and types, especially those based on positions or functions, we frequently find it effortless to navigate through them. This is because we inherently associate leadership with a hierarchy. We develop leadership theories to facilitate this, whether we are discussing democratic, autocratic, or transformational frameworks which we develop to produce efficiency toward ends.
While titles can be influential in earning respect and establishing authority, true leadership is ultimately determined by one’s actions and qualities, rather than by simply holding a position. I will now elaborate on the rationale behind this statement.
The essence of genuine leadership lies in the skill of influencing others. Leaders possess the talent to bring individuals together, motivate them to pursue a shared task, cultivate collaboration, and empower them to make their best contributions. If one wants to excel in this, it is necessary to have effective communication skills and unfeigned empathy.
As mentioned earlier, organizations delegate power to individuals to make decisions, allocate resources, and hold others accountable. However, this authority alone doesn’t guarantee effective leadership, for a title can signal experience and expertise, leading to a natural deference from others. However, leaders must consistently show their commitment to earning and maintaining respect through their leadership actions.
While some individuals may exploit their titles to exert control or manipulate others, we should note that such behaviors do not align with the principles of authentic leadership. The significance of it remains the same, whether this occurs in a democratic, autocratic, or transformational manner.
The hierarchical leadership approach, known for its longstanding history, has gained widespread adoption among various organizations. The pyramid structure is commonly used to symbolize the flow of power and authority, with the top being the source and the bottom receiving it. It has its strengths and weaknesses, and understanding both is crucial for making informed decisions about leadership style.
Unfortunately, the abuse of hierarchical leadership is a recurring issue in many organizations and institutions, despite the benefits of efficiency. When individuals who hold positions of power engage in the inappropriate use of their authority, they create situations where those under their control become targets of exploitation, harm, or manipulation. There are multiple ways in which this can manifest, not limited to:
- Verbal abuse: This can involve yelling, insulting, belittling, or threatening subordinates. The creation of a hostile work environment poses a serious threat to the mental and emotional well-being of employees, as well as the overall health of the organization.
- Micromanagement: This involves excessive control over employees’ work, often to the point of stifling creativity and initiative. The potential consequences of feeling demoralized are twofold: not only can it have a detrimental effect on one’s morale, but it can also result in a decrease in productivity.
- Favoritism and unfair treatment: A variety of factors can contribute to this, including discrimination and unequal advancement opportunities. When there are injustices in the workplace, it can weaken employee morale. This can also lead to a decrease in productivity, as employees may feel undervalued or discouraged.
- Withholding information: Leaders keep important information or decisions secret from their employees. Unfortunately, when leaders conceal information, it leads to the development of organizational distrust.
When individuals abuse hierarchical leadership, the consequences can be quite severe, affecting not only individuals but also organizations. This harms various aspects of the workplace, including decreased productivity, increased employee turnover, higher rates of absenteeism, and the potential for legal action. It also creates a toxic work culture that stifles creativity, innovation, and collaboration.
Leadership theories, particularly those that address ethics and integrity, aim to prevent the misuse of power and positions of authority by proposing proactive measures. Ultimately, leadership is not about titles, position, privilege, and power; it’s about the impact on the prosperity, longevity, and well-being of people and organizations.
Leadership matters because it cultivates an environment of trust and respect. Through their commitment to fairness, honesty, and reliability, genuine leaders foster a strong bond of loyalty and support with their team. These leaders commit themselves to driving progress, overcoming challenges, and keeping their promises.
Wilfred Drath et al. (2008) argue that the conventional definition of leadership is becoming less effective. The past emphasis on leaders, followers, and shared goals is diminishing in its ability to explain the nature of leadership. Their integrated theory of leadership from within states: leadership is about direction, alignment, and commitment. Drath proposed a unique perspective on leadership, known as relational leadership theory. He challenges the traditional notion of leadership as solely residing in individuals and instead emphasizes the dynamic interplay as the true source of leadership.
Direction is the shared desired outcomes and collective agreement on vision, mission, goals, and aims to facilitate change from current reality towards a future state.
Alignment refers to the process of configuring organizational structures, skills, processes, performance management systems, governance, and technology to move the organization toward its desired future direction.
The ultimate result of commitment is the ability to inspire individuals to willingly dedicate their time and energy towards the advancement of a common aim. By shifting the focus of the conversation, organizations can address the subject of leadership by emphasizing the production of three outcomes: direction, alignment, and commitment.
The core tenets of Drath’s relational leadership theory are:
- The essence of leadership does not lie in one person at the forefront, issuing instructions, but it is a collective achievement.
- Systems create leaders, as leadership qualities are not innate attributes, but emerge through active participation in interpersonal dynamics within a group.
Drath’s theory provides a wealth of valuable insights that can enhance our understanding and application of leadership principles. By engaging in relational dialogue characterized by open, honest, and respectful communication, individuals establish trust, foster understanding, and develop a collective sense of purpose. This enables them to collaborate effectively toward the attainment of shared objectives.
The nature of leadership is not static but contingent upon the context in which it occurs. The exact styles and ways of leading will inevitably differ based on many factors, such as the specific circumstances, the individuals involved, and the unique obstacles being encountered.
Drath’s theory shifts the attention from individuals to integrative connections. By recognizing the significance of collaboration and open communication, organizations can foster leadership practices that are more cooperative and inclusive.
Despite its optimism, the relational theory has not been exempt from critique, with several valid counterarguments raised against it.
The emphasis on relationships and context can create ambiguity when trying to determine the actual leader or person responsible. Hence, transitioning from traditional hierarchical models to relational leadership practices poses significant challenges for organizations and individuals familiar with top-down approaches.
Notwithstanding these criticisms, Drath’s relational leadership theory has garnered attention in leadership practice. The focus on collaboration, communication, and shared purpose reflects the complexity and interconnectivity of the workplace. Individuals and organizations can foster more meaningful forms of leadership by understanding and applying the principles of relational leadership.
Descending or Servant Leadership
Throughout history, countless individuals demonstrated remarkable leadership abilities beyond the above and within styles. However, no one has done it more perfectly than Jesus Christ. Regardless of one’s profession or background, leaders can look to his life and teachings as a timeless guide. How did Jesus display leadership superior to the top-down and within principles?
The leadership literature uses engaging theories to categorize the skills and personal requirements that seminars, workshops, and conferences aim to inspire. Yet flaws and failures marred the landscape of leadership, casting a shadow over attempts at leading—read about the scandal in highly supposedly prestigious organizations. Despite the efforts, none of the theoretical models of organizational examples presented generated a flawless model.
Dr. Stanley Patterson, a renowned leadership professor at Andrews University, researched the existing hierarchical leadership environment and delineated two distinct leadership styles: the Ascendant/Positional and the Incarnational/Descending. Patterson located the ascending leadership style in the biblical narrative of Isaiah 14:3-11, which prophesied the ascent and decline of the King of Babylon. Isaiah 14:12-21 presents a symbolic drama of Lucifer’s rise and fall. The phrase “I will” conveyed the desire for dominance and superiority.
Lucifer’s self-centered hierarchical struggle for preeminence and power would destroy anyone who stood in his path to the top, including God himself. Lucifer’s ambitious endeavor to climb the pyramid ended in disappointment as he failed to reach the summit. Instead of his original goal of attaining power, destruction became his end.
Leadership in the secular context often connotes power, authority, influence, and financial advantage. Ambitious individuals use various tactics, such as manipulating power dynamics, issuing threats, and employing subterfuge, to rise to the highest levels of power. When examining these traits side by side, it becomes apparent that the life and teachings of Jesus Christ are opposites.
Matthew’s gospel details Jesus’ indictment of a leader’s self-indulgent desire to ascend (Matthew 20:25-27). A person’s egocentric ascendancy of the hierarchical model of leadership is incompatible with the Incarnational or Christ-centered descendant framework as presented in the Biblical record. Jesus, rather than engaging in an ascendant design of leadership behavior, stepped down from His exalted state of being and emptied himself (Phil 2:7).
The Savior avoided status, rank, and privilege—for which modern leaders strive. Rather, He divested himself of His position to become a servant. The descendant model raised the requirements for Christian leadership, especially the genre proposed by the University of the Southern Caribbean. Jesus dismantled the hierarchical model and exceeded Drath’s relationship proposal with “I am among you as one who serves.”
I proffer that Jesus’ quintessential leadership integrates the hierarchical, relational, and servant by its emotive directive. Power, position, and privilege are not ends in themselves. These are the means to achieve the building up of people and organizations. This was the message delivered in that upper room by the God-man. In his account, John recounts how Jesus, during supper, made a significant gesture to model to his disciples the true essence of leadership. This object lesson involved Jesus getting up from the table and using a basin and a towel, teaching the importance of humble service over the pursuit of power.
Jesus, despite His divine status as the Son of God, exhibited remarkable humility by not seeking positions of authority or power. Through the embrace of a life of simplicity, He maintained a constant connection with and showed empathy towards those whom society marginalized and excluded. He showed humility by washing the feet of His disciples, a task typically reserved for the lowest servants. By performing this act, He taught his followers that true leadership involves selflessly serving others, making it a powerful object lesson in leadership.
He proclaimed, I your Lord and Master have given you an example to follow in my steps. The following day at noon, He humbled himself to be nailed to a tree. Paul asserts that Christ, One who is equal to God, took on the likeness of a sinful man willingly. The God-man took on the appearance of a man (as leader), and in doing so humbled Himself and obeyed until death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:7-8 NKJV).
Jesus, in performing that act, demonstrated the qualities of divine leadership. The act inverted the hierarchical pyramid and introduced a new leadership principle for which there are few takers—leadership means sacrifice.
To paraphrase James Allen Francis from his 1926 sermon, One Solitary Life: Twenty centuries have come and gone and today He is the epitome of leadership. I am well within the mark when I say that all the generals that ever marched, all the captains that ever sailed, all the politicians that ever sat, all the kings that reigned—put together—have not affected the cause of leadership on this earth as much as Jesus, the Quintessential Leader.
When we take the time to analyze Jesus’ leadership, we discover valuable lessons that are deserving of our attention:
- True leadership surpasses the mere pursuit of power or control; it entails motivating and directing others toward a collective goal.
- Exemplary leaders exhibit selflessness and humility by prioritizing the needs of others above their own.
- Leaders actively promote a collaborative and innovative culture to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute and gain awards. They focus on developing the skills and talents of the team to sustain success.
- Leaders understand that sacrifice is necessary to achieve a greater good.
Jesus is the Leader who sits situationally above, within, or below. Which alternative will ultimately define the practice that we prefer? By embracing Jesus’ mandate, individuals can develop and enhance their leadership skills, thereby creating a meaningful and influential impact on both their organization and the global community.
Eugene F. Daniel
By Hayden McKenna
This is the first of a series of feature articles that will focus on matters of leadership. The series coincides with the recent establishment USC Leadership Academy (USCLA).
Leadership is one of those buzz-words in the jargon of management, governance and political studies that never gets old or goes out of fashion, despite its quality of occasionally being fodder for trite cliché and worse even, spectacular mal-practice. From Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince with its schizophrenic motif of the fox and the lion, to the pessimistic literary offerings of George Orwell in Animal Farm, or William Golding in Lord of the Flies, to the brighter more hopeful contemporary works of a long list of other mostly Caucasian males like Peter Drucker, Sidney Finklestein, John C. Maxwell and Simon Sinek, leadership remains a global preoccupation of the well-read and the ambitious. The narrow cultural immanence in the literature on leadership is obvious to the conscious and critical eye. So too is what is perhaps a misogynistic skepticism about the true potency of feminine leadership, if one reckons it by the loudest voices in the room and among the proclaimed pundits and gurus – pardon the non-western monikers for the experts. The case for a richer democratization and more cultural diversity and gender inclusivity in the epistemology that supports how we learn about, practice, present and represent leadership is not difficult to make. Think deeply about what is commonly accepted and available to you on the subject of leadership and you most likely would agree.
As the University of the Southern Caribbean approaches its centennial, there is, or should be, a collective consciousness that our remarkable progress and our missed opportunities too, cannot be disentangled from our leadership culture and praxis. This claim does not have a selective adhesive that attaches solely to the 2 women and 27 men that have been our Presidents. Good and progressive organizational leadership must percolate to and be fed-back from every capillary and cell of the organizational anatomy if the organs, limbs and systems are to resist atrophy and necrosis. Leadership and conscious leaders exist and must be recognized, equipped and empowered to exist, thrive and multiply throughout the University. The success of the second 100 years depends on it.
On November 10, 2023, the USC Leadership Academy (USCLA) was launched. The keynote address for the opening of the USCLA was delivered by Dr. Leon Wilson, an illustrious alumnus of CUC/USC’s Class of 1974. Dr. Wilson has had a long and distinguished career that has included positions of leadership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, where in his native Guyana he served as a Pastor and District Leader, an Associate and full Departmental Director and rose to the position of Executive Secretary of the Guyana Conference. After migrating to the United States, he continued to practice ministerial leadership pro-bono as a volunteer pastor of two churches for almost four years.
As a career academic, Dr. Wilson has served in various leadership roles in several universities in the United States of America, including Wayne State University, East Carolina University, Alabama State University, Tugaloo College and Morgan State University. His varied roles have included positions as Teaching Faculty, Departmental Chairperson, Vice Presidencies in several portfolios, Provostships, and an Interim Presidency. Dr. Wilson also has the permanent distinction of being the first person to be designated as Provost of the University of the Southern Caribbean. Dr. Wilson has also served on several committees and boards and was President of the North America Alumni Association of the University of the Southern Caribbean for three years. In his own words, he carries a “heavy bag of leadership experiences.”
I recently had the privilege of having an extensive conversation with Dr. Wilson on matters of leadership. We explored leadership in the field of academics, in the church, in Caribbean society and how its practice continues to evolve in the face of 21st century needs and challenges.
Good leadership for Dr Wilson, “inspires people, good leadership encourages followship, good leadership is also being a follower… Good leadership develops others…if you are simply leading, at some point what happens is when you are gone the influence disappears. A good leader is a person who develops a legacy. That legacy involves moving people along and making them better than when you found them…The legacy of good leadership is that there are people who can carry on what you have started but more so, they innovate because you have taught them to do that.”
In recalling his preparation for leadership, Dr. Wilson hailed the example of leadership displayed by his mother and aunt in his formative years. His mother was up to the challenge of managing what he described as a household of “plenty boys, one girl and grandfather”. Later in his childhood, he lived with an aunt who served as a midwife for an expansive district in Guyana, in an age in the Caribbean where the rite of ‘cutting the navel-string’ was a very highly esteemed badge of honour. Dr. Wilson said that observing how these two women managed their responsibilities, offered him early preparation for his future role as a leader.
Church work was another valuable source of Dr. Wilson’s personal preparation for leadership. For Dr. Wilson, some of the lessons learnt and skills honed as a young Pastor, Director and Administrator in the Guyana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, were valuable and transferable to other challenging leadership contexts he encountered in his accomplished academic leadership career.
Important too in building his leadership aptitude and confidence was his fortune of having good mentors. As a young post-graduate student at Andrews University in Berrien Springs Michigan, USA, he came under the influence of Dr. Sakae Kubo and Dr. Walter Douglas. The latter – perhaps because of his Grenadian Caribbean heritage and iconic CTC/CUC/USC status as one of our most distinguished alumni, Dr. Wilson fondly referred to as “our man there” and said, “We watched him operate in an environment where he was very singular as a black person…We learnt a lot from him. The way he related to people inspired me. The way he conducted his classes, built leadership capacity… He was a champion in his own right and a good example to many of us younger people.”
Dr. Wilson also recalls that when he was elected as Executive Secretary of the Guyana Conference in the early 1980s, he was one of the youngest Conference Administrators in the world church. He considers the mentorship he received from seasoned Administrators like Pastors Samuel L. Gadsby and Peter J. Prime of Trinidad and Tobago, and his own Conference President, Pastor Gordon O. Martinborough as invaluable.
Receiving and offering mentorship is in Dr. Wilson’s view, an important aspect of the preparation for and practice of leadership. Dr. Wilson himself has been an inspirational mentor to many.
As a leader in academia, his passion to develop people has also made him a reagent in advancing the careers of many who he has served as leader. His collegial approach intentionally emphasises the value of people and the ideas and contributions can bring to the table when rightly exposed. His fidelity to valuing people, their ideas and their contributions even extends to when their views are at variance with his own. This orientation has allowed him to cultivate other successful leaders everywhere he has been.
Dr. Leon Wilson is persuaded that leaders in academia and elsewhere, blunder badly when they see themselves as bosses and suppressors of dissenting views. Academic leadership for Dr. Wilson is a position of privilege and not of power. “People who last, are not bosses” he says. Leaders should be humble enough to concede that they do not have to have all of the answers all of the time and they are not omnicompetent. Leaders must recognize their limitations. They are not gods. They must practice sincerity and be willing to admit responsibility when things do not turn out the way they are supposed to.
The perspective of the led and how they are evaluating the journey, is valued by the good leader, even when it is not pleasing to the ear. Good leaders are great listeners. For Dr. Wilson the great leader “intentionally orchestrates involvement” and is not intimidated by the sight, sound or smell of talent, abilities and expertise in others.
Dr. Wilson contends that leadership acumen in academia, is best developed through incremental climbing as opposed to leap-frogging. Leap-froggers are robbed of valuable learning experiences on their way up. They are typically impoverished of quality opportunities to build relationships and empathy with others they are responsible for. Leap-froggers often fall prey to insecurities when confronted with criticism and even constructive ideas, coming especially from persons they jumped over in their sudden flight. This insecurity sometimes manifests itself in rank-pulling. Academic institutions best develop leaders, by rewarding contributors with a path to incremental climbing.
For persons aspiring to be leaders, Dr. Wilson warns that being overly critical of their present leaders probably will not abet their ambitions well. Careful to draw a distinction between helpful critiquing and being unhelpfully critical, Dr. Wilson said “if you aspire to leadership, my counsel is always to take the best that everybody can give and create your own mosaic. There is nothing like a perfect leader”.
With respect to the challenges faced by higher educational institutions – particularly private Seventh-day Adventist institutions (like USC) in the so-called developing world), challenges that seem to have escalated in the wake of the COVID -19 pandemic and its aftermath, Dr. Wilson candidly argues that our present model requires re-examination and renovation. He expressed that if our church sincerely values all of the counsel of Ellen G. White on the matter of education, then the oft-repeated statement that “the work of redemption and education are one”, should trigger a sea-change in the way our church distributes its finite financial resources so that Mrs. White’s good counsel and the equivalency there embedded is truer than mere rhetorical elegance.
On the matter of the struggles our church is having with attracting and conserving young people and the leadership issues that arise therefrom, Dr. Wilson agrees that some of our approaches require change. A better theological balance needs to be struck between our sermonic preoccupation with apologetics on the one hand and contemporary pragmatism on the other. Greater attention is needed to addressing the needs of our young people in ways that connect organically and meaningfully with their present circumstances. He says that “a lot of our pastors do not recognize the time in which we are living” and argues that “there has to be a change in the leadership profile of the pastors”. Referencing Jeremiah 6:16 and its counsel to look for the old paths and walk therein, he opined that this passage and others like it, might be a possible basis for some pastors resisting the urgency to minister to our young people in the context of their time, Dr. Wilson says that he is giving mental attention to the traditionalist hermeneutic around such passages of scripture that may stand in the way of greater pragmatic perspicacity in how our church ministers to our endangered youthful population. Scripture also enjoins us to knowing the times he argues and a balanced blend of searching the old paths with knowing the times can result in “ministry that speaks to everybody”.
Our conversation then turned to the question of leadership in our post-colonial Caribbean reality. Most of what academic literature presents about leadership, is based on a quite narrow stream of knowledge that comes primarily from research and writing done in the United States of America and the United Kingdom over the last 120 years. In many ways our cultural realities in the region are quite different from those of the US and the UK. Short of a re-invention of the wheel, there is room for more indigenous epistemology, research and approaches to leadership, rooted in our unique historical and cultural contexts. For Dr. Wilson, an inversion of the plantation pyramid inherited from our colonial past is necessary. The master-servant binary which still influences how we view and practice leadership is a stubborn obstacle to our progress. According to Dr. Wilson, “We were trampled. We were nobodies… The leadership we have been exposed to is a model where there is some big-shot up there that we look up to… It’s a model that is top-down. It’s a model that everything flows from somewhere on-high and rains down on the lower mortals. You need to invert that concept.”
Dr. Wilson, the Sociologist, argues that we need – now that we have the opportunity – to craft leadership approaches that better serve our collective good. The urgency of doing so, found cogent inflection in two rhetorical questions he posed: “Who is getting the bigger share of the oil in Guyana? Who is getting the biggest share of the oil (resources) anywhere in the Caribbean?”
On the highly topical matter of some of the unique challenges confronting 21st century human civilization, such as the rapid growth of AI, a gilded democratization of the power to publish and consume content in cyberspace (accompanied by the conspicuously undemocratic control of ICT by huge, rich trans-national private entities), the planned obsolescence of the universe in the service of the metaverse and multiverse and the inability of philosophers and ethicists to keep up with it all, Dr. Wilson, while conceding the redoubtable threats, prefers to focus on the wealth of opportunities. He argues that our young people – as natives of this age must be entrusted with greater leadership responsibilities to help us navigate through these dizzying times and find the answers we need, if we are not to be left behind. On this matter he expressed a special concern for our church institutions and their capacity and will to rightly harness the leadership value our young people can bring – especially now.
Finally on the matter of the establishment of the USC Leadership Academy (USCLA), Dr. Wilson thinks that “it is a fantastic idea”. He expressed that the USCLA will help to grow talent internally. It will help to keep good people employed at USC and in the region. Young people can now see a path to rising to top positions of leadership at the University without necessarily leaving the institution and the region in search of opportunities for personal and career growth. “I believe it is a very very good step in the right direction… The Leadership Academy is a good thing. I hope it is sustained …and we get some solid leaders out of it”.
Stay tuned for part two of our series – Leadership matters!
By Hayden McKenna
Accidents of birth, the fact or fiction of kismet, fate versus agency, the unforgiving, unrelenting metronome of life’s clock, good luck, tough luck, and the untamed caprice – sometimes tyranny – of serendipity and opportunism are existential mysteries that without faith, the meaning to living would remain an estranged fugitive-at-large. Let us not over-think this though. The intention here is far more light-hearted. All of this metaphysical waxing is simply to say that it is extremely doubtful that any of the almost 750 freshers among us this year, intentionally purposed to graduate in the Class of 2027 – the class of our university’s centennial! Yes in 2027 our beloved USC celebrates 100 years of existence. Follow the simple math; the freshers of 2023 possess – by dint of accident of birth or matriculation – the unique and significant claim to being members of the presumptive centennial class.
In human reckoning – across time, geographies and cultures, 100 of almost anything is significant – not 94, at least 100! Generally though, there is almost unanimous consensus that 100 metres in track and field, 100 runs in cricket, 100 reps at the gym, 100 miles of cycling, even £/€/$100 (depending on the currency) is significant or valued. When it comes to years, our relatively short lifespans rarefy the triumph of surviving for 100 years. A 100th anniversary or birthday truly matters. At the University of the Southern Caribbean, we can expect that everything will be bigger brighter and better in 2027.
When the topic of our quickly arriving centennial and the beginning of the incubation of the Class of 2027, was recently broached with University President, Dr. Colwick Wilson, he re-joined with his trademark enthusiasm:
I wish I were graduating during the year when the institution celebrates 100 years… It would be a graduation experience like none other…It seems as if that embedded in the psyche of the populations of the world is this notion of what happens within a century…There is something distinctive about getting to 100. It is a marker of significance in all of our memory and all of our lives. There is that social-psychological reality that allows people to pause and say wow, thank God for 100 years.
Dr. Wilson went on to point out that in USC’s lived history, there have been classes that have been special because of the institutional milestones attached to them. There was the very first class that entered East Caribbean Training School. The first class to graduate from Caribbean Training College, the first class to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, the first class to begin a bachelor’s degree at CUC and complete it, the first cohort of students to graduate with a USC conferred master’s degree, the first batch of nurses to graduate. Institutional milestones embellish some classes with special memorability – perhaps none more so than the Class of 2027.
When asked about some of the unique things the Class of 2027 can look forward to during their four-year tenure at the university, Dr. Wilson projected an exciting 48 months ahead. On November 18th and 19th of this year, we can expect to see the soft launch of the university’s centennial celebrations, with its supporting capital campaign and the Get on the Bus (GOTB) 2023 initiative.
Sub-committees drawn from a broad cross-section of the university community, including administrators, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of USC, have been formed and are being formed to plan-out a slew of activities for 2023, 2024, 2025, 2026, and 2027. In the 2026 – 2027 academic year, in every month there will be a major activity leading up to graduation weekend and the Founders’ Day climax.
In this academic year, there will be a major international research conference on the campus to mark Charter Week in the month of March 2024. At that conference, the David Williams Centre for the Study of Religion Spirituality and Health and Well-being will be launched. The conference will also feature national, regional and international scholars and presenters. It is the intention for this international conference to become an annual fixture of the university’s calendar.
In the lead-up to the centennial, students can look forward also, to more opportunities to engage in research. Dr. Wilson said that “research will be integrated into the curriculum. Students will be trained at a higher level to get involved in research through the curriculum and also outside of the curriculum, in areas that they are interested in”.
The improvement of the aesthetic, functionality, efficiency and quality of campus infrastructure will also be pursued through a programme of campus beautification, renewal and development. On the main campus, the Campus Beautification Sub-committee for instance, has already begun working on proposals for the remodelling of the main entrance to the campus.
A top priority of campus renewal for our president is creation and/or enhancement of student spaces on the campus. Dr. Wilson mentioned plans to develop places where students and others could take good photographs, have social gatherings and events, “spaces where students can document memories of their time here at USC… green spaces on campus where students can sit and fall in love…”
A major recipient of the funding to be raised by the capital campaign mentioned earlier, would be a state-of-the-art health and wellness centre to be built where the de-commissioned Linda Austin Hall now stands. Amenities would include a modern gym, a swimming pool, a basketball court, lawn tennis and volleyball courts. Speaking of this facility, Dr. Wilson said “that is where our number one centennial building is expected to be.” Speaking also of plans to have the playfield resurfaced and lit, he said “we have to have a place on the campus where -individuals – young people and older people are able to recreate.”
Dr. Wilson spoke also of plans for the improvement of other aspects of campus infrastructure. There are about 19 buildings earmarked for renovations and upgrades. There is the need to complete the unfinished Dean’s quarters, and the annex to the ladies’ residence hall, up on cardiac hill. The music building will also get some attention and alas, the weather-worn foundation to the northwest of the secondary school would be given newness of life. The electrical power on the campus will also be upgraded to meet present and future needs. All of this will be pursued within a framework that is committed to a greener more energy-efficient campus.
Campus development will not be confined solely to the main campus. The needs of the extension campuses and satellite sites are well known and understood by the university’s administration. There are ongoing negotiations with government bodies at the various locations to improve the endowments of land for expansion and development of our remote campuses.
The Caring University Church building project, which is the shared responsibility of the university, other denominational stakeholders and the congregation itself, is another aspect of campus development that can be expected to be completed before the university’s centennial year. Dr. Wilson expressed a commitment to support this project through fundraising and personal efforts.
The development of the university’s human capital is also a priority of the centennial vision. There will be a special emphasis on leadership development. Dr. Wilson in commenting on this aspect of the centennial trajectory said:
I think there are a number of individuals on this campus, if given the right exposure and experiences… would be excellent candidates for the job of leading this university into the next fifteen to twenty years. I think we have to invest in them. We are going to start a leadership academy with a sub-theme of transition.
Members of faculty and staff can look forward to opportunities for specialized training, upskilling, meaningful mentorships and exposure to leadership building experiences. The first instalments of the training the academy will offer, comes as soon as this November 3rd and 16th.
The university structure has also been modified in order to improve its prospects for delivering a superior USC as it enters its second century. A new administrative division dedicated to advancement and planning has been created. This division, headed by the very experienced Dr. Barbara Reynolds, will ensure that the university becomes adept at multi-tasking the urgency of its present operational functions with its intentional pursuit of planned progress.
Deeper, more constructive community involvement is also on the institutional agenda. Dr. Wilson spoke with passion about finding novel ways for the university to become more meaningfully involved in its immediate community and further afield, in the nation and the region. The TCH-USC Urgent Care Clinic, recently opened in the heart of the Maracas Valley is one example of a greater commitment to community engagement. At the ceremonial opening of the clinic Dr. Wilson spoke about USC’s almost 100-year relationship with the Maracas Valley community. He promised that “USC, is here to stay and will grow bigger, stronger and more involved in the community… We will invest in getting deeper into the community to provide the resources the community needs across multiple dimensions…” he said. Many of the other capital project mentioned previously, will also be designed, built and deployed with the benefit of the wider community also in focus.
The centennial vision, even in the face of scarce resources, is ambitious, bold and affluent in faith. Persuaded by God’s awesome faithfulness over the past 96 years, there is a composed confidence that God is not finished yet with miracle valley.
The Class of 2027, enters USC at a time of unparalleled excitement and opportunity. If you are a fresher this year, you belong to a special class that is destined to be remembered. Spare no opportunity to do remarkable things during your time here. Embrace this journey for all that its worth and do not disembark before you have travelled beyond excellence.
The Community Hospital and The University of the Southern Caribbean are forging a Strategic Partnership
By Hayden McKenna
On Sunday 17th September 2023, The Community Hospital of Seventh-day Adventist (TCH), in partnership with The University of the Southern Caribbean (USC), formally opened the TCH-USC Urgent Care Clinic, located opposite Gate 2 of the USC Main Campus on Maracas Royal Road, St. Joseph Trinidad. The opening was a significant community event for the people of Maracas Valley and environs and further afield. It involved an open-house type health fair where community and other attendees received the benefits of free vision and health screenings, consultations and nutrition and health and wellness counselling.
On the surface of it, this is a simple, seemingly non-newsworthy matter of a local private hospital becoming the operator of the university’s primary health care service. It is that, but in this case, it is so much more. What this joint-venture represents, is the first public showing of an emerging strategic, functional and sociable partnership between two aged and very experienced, community oriented, Seventh-day Adventist institutions in Trinidad and Tobago and by extension, the Caribbean Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
The University of the Southern Caribbean, through its various names and stages, has been in existence since August 27th 1927. The Community Hospital – though officially opened on December 02, 1962, first admitted patients a few months before on September 17th 1962, seventeen days after Trinidad and Tobago became an independent nation. TCH is therefore the oldest existing private hospital in Trinidad and Tobago and September 17th, the date chosen for the opening of this clinic, is an important date in TCH’s history. USC and TCH when combined, can boast of a service legacy of more than 150 years in Trinidad and Tobago. The value of aggregating 150 years of multi-sector service experience in a society as diverse as Trinidad and Tobago is hard to overstate. This is what this emerging partnership brings to the market.
USC and TCH also have a shared philosophy, value-system and worldview. They are both Seventh-day Adventist institutions. Adventism at its core, teaches that education is inextricably connected to human redemption and restoration. It also teaches and health and wellness are the “right hand of the gospel” – no offense intended to the south-pawed. Education and health and wellness are inseparable parts to the human-redemption and restoration project in the Adventist worldview. This fundamental combination is a tried and tested formula. In the very Adventist-influenced Loma Linda University community in San Bernardino, California for instance, research shows that where these factors are strongly combined, residents on average, live for up to ten years longer than the national average. Loma Linda for this reason, is the sole blue zone community in the USA. Can the USC-TCH partnership in Maracas Valley be nascent brush-strokes-of-blue-zoning in miracle valley? Maybe.
The presence of a well-staffed first-class medical clinic, backed by the resources of TCH, offers to USC students, faculty and staff and the communities of the Maracas Valley and its environs, the security of a readily accessible urgent and preventative healthcare facility. According to TCH’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Stephen Carryl, the location and context of this Maracas Valley clinic, have already attracted meaningful discussions with the Ministry of Health about the provision of services to special niches of the wider population of the country.
Apart from the clinic, the USC-TCH partnership will also result in the strengthening of the practical elements of USC’s existing and emerging curricula in the areas of Nurse Education, Allied Health, Occupational Therapy, Social Work, Business Management and even Computer Science, through the offer of internships to USC students and other forms of mutually beneficial engagements. This has already begun and will be deepened in the medium and the long terms. Referencing TCH’s present efforts to digitize all of their medical records for instance, Dr. Carryl pointed out that a project such as this, would be a fertile place for students of Computer Science and IT to see such a process play-out and to participate in the same. Dr. Carryl envisions TCH and USC having a strategic relationship where “USC students would have a home at TCH where they could come here and rotate”. TCH can emerge as a teaching hospital for USC students.
The USC-TCH partnership will also create a robust research ecosystem on matters of interest to both institutions, the nation and the region. Building capacity in this area, is critically important to a post-colonial region of the world, whose populations continue to present live artefacts of a difficult past, manifested in epidemics of obesity, chronic non-communicable diseases, high rates of alcohol consumption and endangered mental wellbeing.
Backstory: God’s Will and a Cedar Hall ‘Bromance’
With all of these compelling reasons for co-operation, the question of why this is happening now and not before, is difficult to dodge. The default answer for people of our faith tradition, is that nothing good happens outside of God’s willing and out of sequence with the fullness of time.
In July of 2021 and June of 2022 respectively, while the world, our region and nation were still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, both USC and TCH experienced transitions in top leadership. Dr. Colwick Wilson was appointed President of USC and Dr. Stephen Carryl was appointed the Chief Executive Officer of TCH. These two visionary leaders have a long ‘bromantic’ history with each other.
The back-story is that they have maintained a close mutually supportive friendship for more than forty years. They both entered Caribbean Union College (now the University of the Southern Caribbean) in 1979 as Theology Majors and lodged together, at the famous Cedar Hall. As “Noble Spartans’ of that famous residence hall, their early friendship would most probably have been negotiated over shared meals and sack-lunches, worship services, chapels and weeks of prayer, and a miscellany of other joys and irritants of dorm life. Indeed, it was at a Graduation Ceremony they witnessed together that Colwick intimated to Stephen his special attraction to the President’s regalia, especially the gown with its unique four-stripped festooning on its sleeve. Hmmm.
Though these classmates were separated when Dr. Carryl switched his focus to Biology and departed for Oakwood College (now Oakwood University) in 1981, they both sustained their mutual friendship and never lost touch, despite their divergent career paths. Dr. Wilson graduated from CUC with his Theology degree in 1983, pastored briefly in Guyana and in 1986 migrated to the United States to further his education in the Social Sciences. This he did to the level of a terminal PhD degree, which he received from the University of Michigan. Dr. Wilson has enjoyed a fruitful academic and leadership career at prestigious institutions in the US, including the University of Michigan, Loma Linda University, The Kettering Health Network and most recently, he held the Provostship at Oakwood University.
Dr Carryl, after completing his baccalaureate degree at Oakwood, went on to Loma Linda University School of Medicine, where he earned an MD. His education and career journey also includes a Master of Health Administration (MHA) from the University of Southern California, Surgical Internship and Residency at the Brookdale University Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. Dr Carryl is a board-certified surgeon with expertise in Laparoscopic Surgery, Bariatric Surgery and Robotic Surgery. He rose to the position of Chairman of Surgery, Chief of Perioperative Services and Director of Bariatric Surgery at Harlem Hospital Center, before taking on the less lucrative job as CEO of TCH.
When directly asked about what prompted the partnership between USC and TCH at this moment, Dr Carryl characterised it as “divinely inspired”. Referring to his enduring friendship of over forty years with Dr. Wilson and the coincidence of both of them being back in Trinidad and Tobago at the same time to lead two significant Adventist institutions, Dr. Carryl conceded that “we know we weren’t smart enough to orchestrate something like this”.
Dr. Wilson in responding separately to the same question, said that “it was Spirit-led. I really think God’s Spirit was speaking to him as He was speaking to me at the same time”. Dr. Wilson shared that when Dr. Carryl came to Trinidad to take up duty at TCH, they were house-mates at the President’s Residence on the campus of USC. They would almost nightly have dinner together – Dr. Wilson doing most of the cooking – and they would talk about the challenges and opportunities facing their organizations. This led to a clarity that co-operation could create a whole that was greater than the sum of the parts. They began with the easier things. TCH was engaged to run USC’s health care service. This partnership would later become more organized and focused. There was the selection of a joint leadership team and a thoughtful expansion of the menu of services to be offered. Informal conversations at a cricket tournament organized by USC for the Maracas Valley community and the expression by villagers of the need for an accessible clinic in the area, added refinement to and popular confirmation of the rectitude of a plan already in train. The TCH-USC Urgent Care Clinic is the maturation of that process that most probably began with a conversation between two friends over a meal that Dr. Wilson claims to have cooked.
TCH’s Present Trajectory
Dr. Carryl speaks with a persuasive passion of the intention to aggressively pursue initiatives to re-establish TCH as “a premier provider of quality healthcare in Trinidad”. According to Dr. Carryl, there are three deliverables that form the basis of TCH’s present focus They are: Quality healthcare, good patient experience and affordability.
TCH medical staff boasts of highly qualified surgeons, specialists and physicians. The Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Damaris Baptiste-Sylvester for instance is a Consultant Obstetrician-Gynaecologist and Gynaecologist-Oncologist trained in the Caribbean, North America, and the UK. For good measure, she is also a USC alumna.
TCH is one of only a few hospitals in the Caribbean that now operates an in-patient rehabilitation clinic, particularly directed at victims of stroke. This service is led by US-trained and certified Trinidadian Dr. Gerard Antoine. With several decades of experience with the US military, Dr. Antoine is the only rehabilitation physician in Trinidad.
There is also a drive to ensure that TCH is on the cutting edge of modern diagnostic and medical technology. Dr. Carryl said that if there are 100 things you should expect from a modern hospital, TCH must be able to do no less than 90 of those things. Significant capital investments are being made to upgrade the hospital’s capacity in this area.
Under Dr. Carryl’s leadership, TCH developed and implemented a programme that is unique among private hospitals in the country and perhaps the anglophone Caribbean. Through a Behavioural and Mental Health Department, every patient that visits TCH gets a psycho-social assessment to ascertain what else is happening in their lives that needs to be addressed apart from their medical condition. This programme is led by Dr. Joanne Williams-Carryl a Social Worker and Therapist and the spouse of Dr. Stephen Carryl. This special department and unique programme have created valuable opportunities for internships for USC’s Social Work Majors. This approach will also be brought to the TCH-USC Urgent Care Clinic.
Dr. Carryl describes the healthcare sector in Trinidad and Tobago as a “productive place” for private operators. He pointed out that the costing of services at TCH is consistently below prevailing market rates. This allows for TCH to price its services in a way to achieve profitability and growth without taking away affordability from customers. “We are not mercenaries. We are not in the business of losing money but we do not have to make the most money” he said. This approach has attracted insurance companies that are excited to work with TCH and bench mark some of their products based on TCH’s pricing structures. TCH is also unashamed of its Adventist ethos and sees it as a differential advantage that sets it apart from its competitors.
Commenting specifically on the TCH-USC Urgent Care Clinic and what it means, Dr. Carryl said he sees the clinic as an extension of the main hospital into the valley. It is consistent with TCH’s strategy to expand its footprint in Trinidad and Tobago. He described the clinic as “the down-payment on an investment in this community”.
As USC moves towards marking the first 100 years of its existence in 2027, it is delighted that at this critical time of its own transformation, it has found in TCH, an equally progressive, values-compatible, well-led partner. The TCH-USC Urgent Care Clinic is a signal manifestation of great things to come for both institutions and the publics they serve.
By Hayden McKenna
Mr. Kerron Hislop, his wife Dr. Tracy Hislop and their son Asaiah are about to write a new chapter of their life journey in Southern California, USA. Kerron proceeds on leave to further his studies. For sure, this has a bitter-sweet taste for USC. His leadership, work-ethic and dauntlessness have come to be so valued here in miracle valley, that his departure will create a huge void. However, his personal and professional development can never be begrudged, and accordingly, the USC community wishes him the very best as he follows God’s leading.
Music is an indispensable element to the sound of worship in most human cultures. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the psalms comprise by far the largest identifiable section of the Old Testament. Even so, the psalms, as extensive as they are, are not the sole province of music in the Holy Bible. There is music elsewhere in both the Old and New Testaments
The school in the valley – through its various names and stages – has always been a place of worship. The completion of the implied syllogism is that music has and will always have existential significance to the sound, rhythm and cadence of life and worship in miracle valley. Music has provided a rallying point for engendering school spirit, collegial camaraderie and cherished memories of belonging to something great that long outlive the ceremonial toss of the tassel at graduation.
As consistently important as music has been to the fabric of USC over the 96+ years of its existence, there has been an uneven pattern of ebbs and flows in standards of achievement, subjective perceptions of attractiveness and popular appeal, classical rigour, and even institutional priority. There have been golden, silver and bronze ages, but never an accommodation for artistic ignobility, ambivalence or death.
From jump, Mrs. Inez C. Hamilton, a talented musician, composer, chorister, teacher and counsellor laid the foundation of music’s indispensability to campus life. Mrs. Hamilton – also the spouse of Professor R.S.J. Hamilton, our school’s first treasurer and third principal – first arrived on new-born campus of East Caribbean Training School (USC’s maiden name), on the second day of its life (August 28, 1927). By November of the following year, she directed what was perhaps the first off-campus showing of the music of the school at the Bi-annual South Caribbean Conference Session held in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Under Mrs. Hamilton’s stewardship, music became so important to the school’s curriculum, that the ability to sight-read music, became a graduation requirement. Mrs. Hamilton composed many songs, among them, was what – for its popularity – might well be informally regarded as the first, unofficial school song: “A Student I’ll Be”. There were several others that came off the tip of her prolific fountain pen.
Mrs. Inez Hamilton was not the sole contributor to the sound of music in the early days of the campus. Between the late 1930s and the first half of the 1940s, there were the creditable contributions to music leadership on the campus made by Mrs. C.E. Stenberg, who was succeeded in the mid 1940’s by Professor and Mrs. J.I. Crawford.
Students also had agency in contributing to the growth of the music culture of the campus over the years. There were early groups like a male quartet comprising of the very known names of Vasco Boyce, George Riley, Samuel Gadsby and Victor Mc Eachrane in the 1930s. In the early 1950s, there was a male nonuplet known as The College Heralds, which again featured students who would go on to accomplish great things in their careers. In the 1960s there was the memorable work of the original Golden Tones.
Those who know well and appreciate deeply the music of miracle valley, would undoubtedly hold up the 1970s and the leadership contributions and indeed the era of Dr. Vernon E. Andrews as a golden age for music on and off the campus. It was an age characterised by an emphasis on chorale music excellence that was memorialized by the production and recording of two outstanding long-playing albums, pressed on vinyl: Echoes From The Valley Volumes 1 & 2. The music of Caribbean Union College was taken to an unprecedented high. There was the fortunate co-mingling of inspirational leadership, with an affluent windfall of musical talent and giftedness on and about the campus – in the student body and otherwise – that formed the conditions for a perfect artistic storm. This period in my reckoning – perhaps to the particular delight of St. Lucian readers – was one of ‘the Pitons’ of our school’s music journey over the many decades.
In the second half of the 1980s, student groups like Collegiates, led by Candyss Ann Davis, the Harmonettes, led by Donna Kirk and a handsome male quartet The Ideals, must come up for honourable mention among others. There was also a new iteration of the Golden Tones and Shalom during this period, both led by the late Vernetta Andrews.
In the 1990s, there were groups such as Voices in Praise (VIP) led by April Roach and later Selwyn Noel, David Jeffery and Cleon Richardson and Adoration led by Jason Max Ferdinand (of Aeolians and Jason Max Ferdinand Singers fame) and Darrel Daniel. There were many other groups and individuals who made their contributions to the beauty of campus music in that decade.
Undoubtedly the second of the twin peaks of ‘the Pitons’ has been the current seven-year period (2016 to 2023), under the inspiring and shrewdly entrepreneurial leadership of maestro Kerron Hislop. The case that can be made for this elevation is both redoubtable and compelling.
- For the first time USC offers a full baccalaureate degree in music with a Music Education emphasis
- For the first time there is an integrated University Choir and Orchestra as a standing fixture
- For the first time there is a self-sufficient institutional (USC) orchestra that plays all of the required music for marquee university occasions such as graduations and convocations
- There are multiple very active musical ensembles including, voice, a concert band and steel pan
- There is a decidedly entrepreneurial approach to music activities
Kerron Hislop’s first coming to Caribbean Union College was in the 1990s. He came as a seventeen-year-old Computer Science Major who dabbled informally in music. In his own words “music was the side-chick”. In his Tobago childhood, he had enduring piano lessons – as many middle-class Adventist children of that time did. He eventually prevailed upon his parents to free him of that drudgery – a decision he says he regrets to this day. With that liberation secured, he largely taught himself woodwind instruments – especially the clarinet, the saxophone and a few other things musical. At CUC, the music of the campus drew him in. Even without sound formal music training, he became instrumental in starting up the CUC Marching Band. His academic focus however was on computer science – “the main-chick”. But he was gradually becoming a young man of divided affections.
Even so, he did so well with his academic studies, that after his graduation he was employed at the college. In time he rose to the position of acting chair of the Computer Science Department in the School of Science and Technology at the University of the Southern Caribbean. Campus life constantly presented him though, with opportunities for musical expression, practise and growth. He emerged into a well appreciated and sought-after saxophonist. His leadership qualities prompted him to establish the band Purpose, which presented impressive covers of popular gospel and contemporary Christian songs to primarily church audiences. Kerron would later assume leadership of the Praise Team of the Caring University Church, contributing to ‘modernizing’ the sound of worship music at the church and negotiating and navigating through barriers to change. He felt the need to make an even greater contribution in the area of music, but was acutely aware of the limitations in his training and preparedness. He bargained with God, pledging to pursue music if he got the opportunity to study again.
In 2010, a combination of circumstances, that included the departure of his wife Tracy (in 2009) to further he studies in the US, the loss of his vehicle at gunpoint and God’s direction persuaded him to join his wife in Southern California and set about preparing himself for greater service in the area of music. He enrolled in La Sierra University, for the baccalaureate programme in Music Technology. Abetted by his previous training in computer science, he completed this four-year programme in two-and one-half years. While at La Sierra, University, he contributed to the curriculum development process for USC’s proposed baccalaureate programme in music, collaborating with then music chairpersons at USC Mr. Selwyn Noel and later Mrs. Jennifer Kharbteng.
After completing his studies at La Sierra University, Kerron enrolled in California Baptist University (CBU), where he successfully pursued two master’s degrees in the areas of Music Education and Saxophone Performance respectively. CBU as its name betrays, is a faith-based university. This was a point of comfort for Kerron. According to him, CBU has one of the largest music programmes in the Southern California area. The overall marketing strategy of CBU relies heavily on its music products and footprint. Students are exposed to a wide range of opportunities for musical performances in various ensembles with the University Choir and Orchestra is the biggest and most prestigious. Kerron was not only able to receive the training that he needed to later do miraculous work in miracle valley, but the structure and business-like approaches he was exposed to at CBU, were worth emulating.
While still a student in Southern California – and becoming a father there too – Kerron still found the energy, time and drive to spearhead the Build-a-Band Project. This was an aggressive campaign that pursued donations in cash and in kind to build the inventory of orchestral and classical instruments and other equipment necessary to re-create at USC, what he was experiencing at CBU. His passion was unquenchable. With the assistance of his wife Tracy, USC alumni in Southern California and elsewhere and countless others from whom he could persuade generosity, he collected instruments and equipment to the extent that a forty-foot container was required to ship them to Trinidad.
In 2016 Kerron, his wife Tracy and their young son Asaiah returned to USC. A vacancy for the chairmanship of a beleaguered Music Department that was threatened with closure and reduced to a skeletal staff, saw him immediately tossed into the position of Co-ordinator. Motivating his troops, finalizing the details of how to execute the curriculum, finding storage for the large stash of instruments and equipment he had mobilized and most importantly getting students and increasing the visibility of the department were time and energy-consuming priorities for him, even as he and his family re-acclimatized to the pace of life in Trinidad and Tobago.
There were other challenges too. USC’s new music programmes did not attract GATE funding. This challenge was converted into an advantage. According to Kerron, the optimistic mindset was and continues to be that “people are willing to pay for quality”. USC was constrained to work doubly hard at quality assurance. In order to provide students with financial aid, scholarships and opportunities to earn, USC mUSiC – the hip alternative moniker for the ‘Music Department’ – has developed entrepreneurial sophistication. The mUSiC Academy was established to offer and manage all non-academic music instruction (music lessons) to members of the public who have an interest. The mUSiC Academy is student driven and led. Music Majors offer the bulk of the instructional services and share in the profits which helps them to meet their own tuition obligations. The mUSiC Academy has also taken on the management and execution of music programmes for primary and secondary schools and church congregations.
Although USC’s music degree was originally designed to offer students the option of four emphases, namely Music Education, Church Music, Music Performance and Music Technology, accreditors and market conditions dictated that only Music Education emphasis could be started in 2016. Even with that limitation, the design of the curriculum is as such that students are required to participate in ensembles each semester with a rehearsal schedule of four to five hours each week per ensemble (plus performances). Students are also exposed to techniques in all of the major instrument families and apart from their primary instrument. They are required to achieve acceptable competence in two secondary instruments. A very busy public performance schedule and recitals also ensure that the USC programme is well-rounded – far more so than any of the rival GATE-funded programmes offered locally by competitors. Kerron also chooses to see USC Christian faith-tradition as offering it a niche market that other local competitors may not be able to readily access. Challenges have been converted into differential advantages.
The COVID 19 pandemic presented USC mUSiC with the alternative to roll over and die or to innovate, survive and grow stronger. Predictably, USC mUSiC chose the latter. But it was not easy. The difficulties of abruptly adapting a programme that is so reliant on in-person instruction and assessment, ensemble (group) rehearsals and performances to remote learning and interaction cannot be overstated. Yet USC mUSiC got it done, and actually experienced growth in the number of Music Majors enrolled in the programme during the lockdowns imposed by the pandemic.
Perhaps the most outstanding proof of life that USC mUSiC offered during the darkest days of the pandemic, was the much-acclaimed virtual University Choir and Orchestra product that published a world-class rendering of the hopeful song “A Day Will Come” With 11K views to date, this video has set a record for the viewership of USC content. This highly successful project was the brainchild of Anton Charles, a USC computer science graduate and now senior Music Major, who Kerron regards as “easily one of the most talented persons” on the campus. The success of this first virtual UCO production, has led to the production and release of at least six others – with others already completed and waiting for release at the launch of the forth-coming USC mUSiC album.
Prior to and after the lockdowns of the pandemic, USC mUSiC in collaboration with creative partners and sponsors offers what has now emerged to be the much-anticipated, yuletide season, production titled “The Greatest Story” (TGS). TGS is a gala fundraising concert production that features enthralling music and drama that spare no effort amaze. Also packaged for a pay-per-view audience, the proceeds of this classy annual production go primarily to funding scholarships for Music Majors.
Mr. Kerron Hislop, his wife Dr. Tracy Hislop and their son Asaiah are about to write a new chapter of their life journey in Southern California, USA. Kerron proceeds on leave to further his studies. For sure, this has a bitter-sweet taste for USC. His leadership, work-ethic and dauntlessness have come to be so valued here in miracle valley, that his departure will create a huge void. However, his personal and professional development can never be begrudged, and accordingly, the USC community wishes him the very best as he follows God’s leading.
Kerron is sure that the accomplishments in these seven years of plenty with him the helm of USC mUSiC would not have been possible without God’s providence, the love and boundless support of his family, his colleagues in and the students of USC mUSiC, the School of Education and Humanities in which the Department of Music resides, the support of USC’s administration USC alumni and friends and a supportive community. It has been a good run and he expects great things in the future for and from USC mUSiC.
Kerron passes on the baton of leadership of USC mUSiC to the very accomplished and experienced Mr. Boyd Gibson. USC will always be grateful for the fulsome contributions Kerron and his family have made to the beautiful sound of miracle valley. We look forward to jamming together again in the valley, on this side of heaven. Farewell for now.
See USC mUSiC content here:
Going “beyond excellence” and transforming “ordinary people into extraordinary servants of God to humanity” are the aspirations that are central vision and mission of the University of the Southern Caribbean. These aspirations are embodied in the motto and mission statement of our university. Beyond rhetoric, these words and the values they reference, confer upon USCians a duty to ceaselessly pursue excellence, not as an instrument of personal and financial aggrandizement but rather, as vital preparation for meaningful service, to real people with names and faces and needs.
Consonant with this, the University of the Southern Caribbean salutes members of its alumni, who are now offering themselves for public service as candidates aspiring to become local government practitioners in the LGE 2023 cycle in Trinidad. Electoral politics is by no means new to the smorgasbord of service-oriented careers that USCians have put their valuable education, professional experience and good characters to. USCians can be found in the municipal and parliamentary chambers of several countries across the Caribbean region. A USCian mayor, prime minister or president may not be too far off – who knows?
USCians can also be found giving quality service in other areas of the government superstructure and the public service, that do not require elections for entry. They are in this nation’s senate, the foreign service, officers of the court, and in a wide range of civil service positions. A USCian currently presides over the parliamentary chamber of the Tobago House of Assembly. This is a matter of extant fact!
In the present LGE cycle, there are five USCians who have offered themselves as candidates. They are: Ms. Aviea Isaac, (Class of 2018), Mr. Emmanuel Pierre, (Class of 2017), Ms. Karina Nanan (Class of 2016), Mr. Kadeem Graham, (Class of 2013) and Pastor Courtney Francois, (Class of 2005).
We had the opportunity to directly interact with two of the five USC alumni (one male and one female) whose names will appear on the ballot on next Monday. The two belong to opposing political parties and are contesting electoral districts in different municipalities.
When asked about what attracted them to electoral politics one candidate said, “I have always been a believer in service over self, I would have spent the last 7 years as a public servant in local government and found myself just always trying to find better solutions to everyday issues. So, with my love for service and appreciation for the local government fraternity, politics was a natural flow… it is an outlet to help the people from a different perspective.”
The other candidate indicated a deep love for active community service and has a successful track record of over two decades of interventions to improve the quality of life of particularly the underprivileged. Entry into electoral politics was seen as a means of upscaling the capacity to improve the lives of people.
When confronted with the question of resource scarcity and the seemingly unlimited demands that are made on councillors by their burgesses, both respondents spoke of finding creative ways to grow the resource pool available to councillors and to more efficiently manage what is available. One of the candidates emphasized the importance of educating the public on the true roles and functions of local government, their rights, privileges and obligations and knowing how to de-conflate local issues from national issues, so that the legitimate demand for public goods is rightly placed.
When asked about the enabling role studying at USC played in developing their public spiritedness, leadership confidence and service orientation, both candidates testified that they benefitted enormously. One candidate recalls participating in student government. She served a one-year term on the executive of the Associated Student Body as Director of Social and Cultural Activities. She also assisted in the design of “Club Soc Sci” – an academic and social club for students of the School of Social Sciences. She was also selected by the university as one of its representatives for the 13th National Youth Parliament. At the youth parliament, she was given the portfolio of Prime Minister and Member for Tobago West. She also regards with high value the spiritual ethos of the university and said that “it has really helped in times of difficulty… as a young person when you are trying to be more grounded and more stable putting that centre focus on God really helps get you through difficult things in life…Your faith is a really big part in public life so I am thankful for my USC experience for that.”
The other candidate shared that his Caribbean Union College/University of the Southern Caribbean experience contributed invaluably to preparing him for the hard work of campaigning and the even harder work of representation if elected. He shared that he entered CUC in the days when the work-study programme and working an industrial year were normative. He confessed that it taught him discipline, sharpened his goal-orientation and built habits of multi-tasking, industriousness and hard work. Recalling our previous institutional motto “A Light to the Caribbean”, he said that “politics can be a very dark place…you have to bring your light into that arena so that people could have a clearer vision of where to walk”. He advised fellow USCians that “whether you are in the police service, nursing service, fire service, teaching service, wherever you are – and politics is not exempted – we need to find more of ourselves in there so that when we sit down at the table, we can bring light to the discussion.”
Our university salutes these USCian candidates and wishes them and USCians everywhere success in their aspirations and lived endeavours to improve communities, nations and a world that is desperately crying out for positive redirection. You can hear those cries if you are truly attuned. Listen.
You hardly ever encounter a commencement address at a graduation ceremony that is data rich, but moving, scholarly yet practical, perfect in its rhythm with national regional and global conversations, honest about dark challenges but brilliant in its offer of solutions, motivational, engaging and highly entertaining and complete with a galvanizing appeal to positive action and personal responsibility. These boxes are seldom ever checked together – especially these days, when public speakers have to struggle with the conflict between meaningfulness and reel-worthiness. Harvard University Professor, Dr. David Williams – a compatriot of luminaries of the Nobel ilk like the late Derek Walcott and the late Sir Arthur Lewis – gave the perfect commencement address at the main auditorium of the University of the Southern Caribbean last Sunday. Invited by his alma mater to deliver valedictory counsel to the 445 members of the Class of 2023, the St. Lucian born professor began his address by declaring that “I am proud to be an alumnus of the University of the Southern Caribbean…it is USC/CUC that has made me who I am today.”
Dr. Williams pointed out that the graduands were now part of the 7 percent of the world’s population that has achieved the minimum of a bachelor’s degree. He further stated that the Class of 2023 was graduating at an unprecedented time when the Caribbean region and the world is faced with great challenges and enormous opportunities to make a difference. It is here that this renown sociologist, public health expert and black studies scholar went to crime obesity and the consumption of alcohol as ‘for-instances’ to concretize some of the challenges that confront us and to recruit conscious change agents to face them with courage passion and perseverance.
Describing homicide and violent crime as a serious public health crisis in the Caribbean region and a problem that attracts a none-trivial spend of the limited financial resources our governments have, Williams pointed to a 2023 study that revealed that the rate of violent death in CARICOM member states is almost 3 times higher than the average for the rest of the world. Professor Williams also shared that research indicates that children of the incarcerated and those who are struggling in elementary school and devoid of positive role models are likely to commit more than 50 percent of future crimes according to some estimates by criminologists. He pointed to a successful long term prevention strategy that has shown promising results in the US. The US Dream Academy, established 25 years ago by Trinidad-born pastor and musician Dr. Wintley Phipps, focusses on inspiring and investing in children of the incarcerated and those struggling academically in elementary school. Believing that “a child with a dream is a child with a future”, the US Dream Academy has developed a robust curriculum of academics, social values enrichment and mentoring to at risk children in underserved communities in 10 cities in the US.
Turning to the epidemic of overweight and obesity, professor Williams revealed that the rates of overweight and obesity ranged in our region from 19 percent in the population of Antigua and Barbuda to a high of 32 percent in the Bahamas. More alarmingly, our region also grapples with increasing rates of childhood obesity. In the population of children aged 5 to 9, the overweight and obese ranged from 26 percent in St. Lucia to 40 percent in the Bahamas. Referring to what he called the “obesogenic environment” in which we live, Williams averred that merely going with the flow puts us at risk for gaining weight in an environment where unhealthy choices easier to make than healthy ones.
Like he did when he discussed crime, professor Williams also identified innovative solutions that are available to fight overweight and obesity and encouraged the Class of 2023 to use their resolve and creativity to join the fight.
Alcoholism is another global public health challenge that confronts us. Professor Williams shared that alcohol consumption is strongly associated with more than 200 diseases and injury conditions. In 2016, 2,8 million deaths (an average of almost 8000 per day) were related to alcohol consumption. Drawing on 2020 consumption patterns in Latin America and the Caribbean, Williams showed that Uruguay, St. Lucia, Argentina and Barbados were the nations with the highest rates of consumption, with Trinidad and Tobago showing a 25 percent increase in per capita use in recent years. Professor Williams also presented numbers and percentages that showed that frequent heavy or binge drinking was very far from uncommon and there was a very high correlation between alcohol consumption and road accidents (1:3 for men and 1:5 for women).
Professor Williams called out the wines and spirits industry – whose profits depend on alcohol consumption – for dishonestly highlighting research data that support their interests but being silent with the data that does not. He further pointed to a raging debate in the scientific literature on the apparent benefits to health of moderate alcohol consumption and showed that these benefits are more confounding than causal. Moreover, he revealed that current research now shows that alcohol consumption had no identifiable benefits to persons under the age of 40 – who make up a large proportion of the market for wines and spirits.
Professor Williams then counselled the graduating class and his wider audience to “treat each child of humanity with dignity and respect”. On this matter he courageously pronounced that Christians may need to apologize to the LGBT community. “They have not experienced the love of Jesus in the way we treat them” he said.
Conceding that making a positive difference is often expensive in financial terms, he submitted that money ought not to be an obstacle to pursuing purpose. Find out what God wants you to do and God would hold Himself responsible for your success he advised, with a quality of conviction that could only come from personal experience. He shared that he graduated from USC/CUC in 1976 and left for Canada with only US$15. He was determined to further his studies. With his mother’s wise words that “no honest work is degrading” encoded in his mind he worked hard in sometimes difficult conditions and God never let him down. He confidently declared that “what God has done for me; He is prepared to do for the Class of 2023!”
Finally, he encouraged the class to own, their world with the good and the bad in it. Learn lessons from it, understand, struggle, invest, improve, rectify, eradicate, heal, serve, love and preserve it. Do not be discouraged by naysayers or paralyzed by tradition, he warned.
Go Class of 2023… create solutions, meet the needs of suffering humanity, turn dark nights into bright tomorrows, transform communities of despair into new oases of hope. You can make a difference. You have an extraordinary future. May God bless each of you and may God bless USC.
View the full video of Professor David Williams’ address here:
Author: Hayden McKenna
At USC’s 90th Commencement Ceremony, Dr. Vernon E. Andrews, Ms. Norma Greaves and Mrs Shirley Baptiste were honoured for the stellar contributions they continue to make to the progress of the University of the Southern Caribbean. The Doctor of Arts honoris causa was conferred on Dr. Andrews, while the Spirit of USC Award, 2023 was bestowed on Ms. Greaves and Mrs Baptiste. All three are alumni of the University of the Southern Caribbean, and Dr Andrews and Ms Greaves have served the University in various academic and leadership positions for most of their adult lives. Today, in their retirement, they remain cherished repositories of institutional memory for the university and the wider Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Caribbean Union.
Commenting on receiving the honorary doctorate, Dr. Andrews said that given the choice, he would again devote his career to denominational service in the field of education. For him the true reward of a career so spent, was meeting and having the privilege to work with young people and to impact their lives in the classroom, in music and otherwise. As he reflected on his very long run as maestro on the campus and the many young people with whom he had the privilege to work, names like Len Archer, Colville St. Hilaire, the Forde and the Thorpe sisters were among those that he chose to mention. The double-doctor said that “if the Lord gives me time and space, I will still like to be of service wherever I am”. He confessed though, that he sometimes has to remind himself that he is no longer twenty-three years old. Dr. Andrews said that he was particularly delighted to have his sons and grandsons on the stage with him, when the honour was conferred.
Ms. Norma Greaves who resides in Barbados, was present on the main campus to receive the Spirit of USC Award, 2023. Commenting on receiving the award, Ms. Greaves said, “All through the years my aim was to work in God’s vineyard. I skipped other job opportunities, and vowed to remain at USC where I enjoyed working in various capacities as CTC/CUC progressed even with name changes… I thank God for His blessings, and for the strength given as He led me along through the years of work. I humbly accept this Spirit of USC Award 2023, in appreciation and recognition of what was deemed as my dedication to excellence at my alma mater. To God be the glory I give Him all the praise.”
Mrs. Shirley Baptiste, received the Spirit of USC Award, 2023 in absentia. Mrs. Baptiste who had a fruitful three-decade career with the United Nations, has been a consistent contributor to the success of her alma mater. She has served as President of the CUC Alumni Association and is the sponsor of the Harold Baptiste Lecture Series, held annually in the name of her late husband Pastor Harold W. Baptiste. Nested in the School of Theology and Religion, the Harold Baptiste Lecture Series, aims at exposing theology and religion majors and the wider university population, to interesting intersections between contemporary issues and Christian theology.
These three alumni, and former colleagues and leaders, exemplify the ethos of USC – beyond excellence, and encourage not just the Class of 2023, but all of us, to continue the work of Miracle Valley!
Author: Hayden McKenna
On May 20th 2023, Elder George Ralph Thompson, finished with the troubles of this world, was called to rest. The administration, faculty and staff, students, alumni and friends of the University of the Southern Caribbean express our deepest condolences to the family, relatives, ministerial colleagues and many friends of Elder Thompson. We also join in the celebration of a life of one of our favourite alumni sons whose long, distinguished and praiseworthy tour of duty and service in this world, will long be remembered and brilliantly historicized by our church.
George Ralph Thompson, the son of George Gilbert and Edna Thompson, was born on March 20, 1929 on what was then the British colony of Barbados, (now the Republic of Barbados). His early life was nested in the hamlet of Connell Town in St. Lucy, Barbados’ rugged northernmost parish. His parents, members of the Pilgrim Holiness Church, raised G. Ralph as a protestant Christian. In his youth, G. Ralph displayed noble qualities and tremendous promise that did not go unnoticed by members of his community. Young G. Ralph apprenticed as a tailor in nearby Checker Hall with Mr. Fred Greaves who was a member of the Checker Hall Seventh-day Adventist Church. Fred Greaves gave a copy of The Great Controversy to the lad. The inquisitive young man read the book and was intrigued.
When A.R. Tucker the then principal of Caribbean Training College (CTC) – a Seventh-day Adventist boarding school in Maracas Valley on the island of Trinidad, visited Barbados on a recruiting expedition, he, abetted by Fred Greaves prevailed upon young G. Ralph Thompson’s parents to send the intellectually curious young man off to CTC.
On March 22nd 1946 George Ralph Thompson entered CTC . It was in this fertile valley, that lifts its eyes on the south-face of El Tucuche that his preparation for a historic, five-decade long career with the Seventh-day Adventist Church germinated. It was on the CTC campus that G. Ralph Thompson was baptized by A.R. Tucker and became a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It was at CTC that he was exposed to a fourteenth-grade curriculum that prepared him for entry into the gospel ministry. In Elder Thompson’s own words, “It is here that my educational horizons were opened up, and apparent impossibilities became challenging and intriguing realities… I can say today with absolute conviction, all that I am, and whatever I might have been able to achieve, I owe to that school in the Maracas Valley in Trinidad.”
It is at CTC too that a youthful G. Ralph Thompson also found the time to dabble in constructive extra-curricular activities that deepened his affection for Adventist culture and contributed valuable addenda to his preparation for ministerial service. For instance, he was a member and one of three first tenors in an outstanding male vocal ensemble called the College Heralds. Their debut performance was held in the College Auditorium in January 1950. Donned in impressive livery, they opened with a memorable rendition of Where are the Boys of the Old Brigade.
G. Ralph Thompson had two graduations from Caribbean Training College. He graduated from the twelfth-grade – the equivalent of secondary school completion – in 1948. Two years later, with advanced schooling, he graduated again having completed a two-year diploma course in Theology ,which qualified him, by the standards of the time, for entry into the gospel ministry.
Elder G. Ralph Thompson began his long and fruitful career as a minister of the gospel in the La Brea and Point Fortin areas of southwestern Trinidad as an intern pastor under the supervision of Pastor Samuel L. Gadsby. His devotion to God, teachability, genuine love for people, giftedness as an evangelist, and staunch commitment to the mission and unique message of the church quickly attracted pastoral success. Throughout G. Ralph Thompson’s remarkable denominational career, he remained steadfastly loyal to these helpful character traits and aptitudes.
In the 1953 to 1954 academic year, Elder G. Ralph Thompson briefly joined the faculty of CUC as a teacher in the secondary school division of the college. This may have been an institutionally organized pre-requisite to availing an opportunity for him to study abroad at Atlantic Union College (AUC) in South Lancaster, Massachusetts, USA. In 1954, he left for AUC, where he completed his Bachelor’s degree in 1956. After his graduation, he was employed as a pastor and teacher in the Lake Region Conference in the United States.
In 1959, he returned to CUC as a member of the faculty. In August of that very year, he was ordained to the gospel ministry in the College Chapel. On June 14 1961, Elder Thompson left for Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA to complete a Bachelor of Divinity degree at the seminary. He returned to CUC in 1962 and between 1962 and 1964, he rose to the status of the Head of the Theology Department and Pastor of the College Church. As head of the Theology Department, he was careful to ensure that the Ministerial Association (the fraternal society for ministerial students) was always vibrant, keenly engaged in public evangelism and spiritual formation activities. One memorable public evangelism campaign of the period, was a series Elder Thompson conducted on Jackson Street in Curepe, Trinidad. In this effort he was supported by his eager students.
Elder Thompson also taught a famous history class of the campus titled “European Survey” which had an elegantly paginated tome for a textbook. This class was famous for its demanding intellectual rigour and its fine tutelage.
Elder Thompson was also a cherished mentor to his students and members of his pastorate.
He would succinctly, yet eloquently share ways of seeing and being that would inspire his students to be accomplished but humble. One of the many students he taught, led to Christ and baptized, recalls him advising that when one receives a promotion one should “step up humbly” and at its end, one should “step down graciously”.
The prodigious progress of Elder Thompson as an extraordinary evangelist, pastor and teacher was carefully followed by the Adventist constituency in Barbados and by extension the eastern Caribbean. In 1964, the thirty-five-year-old Elder Thompson, was asked to serve as the President of the East Caribbean Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, headquartered in Barbados. Permitting no one to despise his youth, Elder Thompson stepped up humbly to this important assignment. He served the East Caribbean Conference as its president for two consecutive triennia.
The demands of the presidency did not attenuate Elder Thompson’s passion for the public proclamation of the gospel. In April of 1967, he established the Faith for Today Radio Broadcast. It aired locally in Barbados and to the islands of the eastern and southern Caribbean.
A flight of denominational elevations would pursue Elder Thompson’s outstanding work and preternatural devotion to service. In 1970, he was elected to the presidency of the Caribbean Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Among the many duties that came with this new role was the chairmanship of the Board of Trustees of his alma mater, dear old CUC. Through his steadfast obedience to God’s leading, he acquitted himself well at Rookery Nook.
In 1975, Elder Thompson was asked to serve as one of the general vice-presidents of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. In 1980, in the midst of theological commotions in the world church, Elder George Ralph Thompson was elevated to the position of Secretary of the General Conference. In this position, he served for four consecutive quinquennia, and towards the end of his tenure, briefly acted as President of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. His two decades as Secretary of the General Conference, spanned the presidencies of Elders Neal C. Wilson, Robert S. Folkenberg and part of that of Elder Jan Paulsen. Elder Thompson’s twenty unbroken years in this office, makes him the longest serving Secretary of the General Conference in the history of the organized Seventh-day Adventist Church. He was also the first person of colour and undiluted subaltern heritage to serve in this esteemed position.
Early in his tenure as Secretary of the General Conference, Andrews University conferred the honourary Doctor of Divinity degree on this worthy recipient in 1983.
The world church experienced institutional development and tremendous membership growth during Elder Thompson’s long stewardship as Secretary of the General Conference. In his report to the 57th General Conference Session in Toronto, Canada in 2000, (his last report as secretary of the world church) he shared that in 1999, an average 2,989 persons joined the church each day or 2.08 each minute of that year.
As high as God elevated his trusted Barbadian servant, he never lost the common touch, his love for people, and his distinct Caribbean personality. There are countless stories of his official and unofficial visits to the Caribbean especially to Barbados and Trinidad and his stubborn habits of visiting and conducting devotions at the major Adventist institutions there, and making house calls to old friends and colleagues. He manifested none of the trappings of pride and power distance that high office could easily summon.
Elder Thompson retired in 2000 after five decades of exemplary denominational service. Even after his retirement, he remained an asset to the church, serving as a field representative for the Ellen G. White Estate and delighting and inspiring congregations with the word, on the special occasions he took to the pulpit.
Elder G. Ralph Thompson was also the devoted husband and father. He married Imogene Clotilde Barker (also a Barbadian) on July 19th 1959 in New York, USA. Imogene Thompson was an alumna of CTC and studied at the college from 1948 to 1951. She is remembered as a “strong singer” on the campus. Imogene Thompson, had an accomplished career as a graduate nurse who worked in Barbados, Trinidad, New York and Washington D.C.
He and his Imogene were partners in long life, ministry and in parenthood. Together they lovingly raised three children: Carol Jean, Gerald Randolph, and Linda Mae. They were also grandparents to four girls. Imogene preceded Elder Thompson in 2018.
On July 10th 2023 Elder G. Ralph Thompson’s body was laid to rest in Naples, Florida, USA. Heaven has marked the spot of his interment for disturbance on that great day. May the long life and rich legacy of this extraordinary servant of God to humanity, inspire us to go beyond excellence like Elder George Ralph Thompson managed to do in his lifetime.
Written by: Hayden McKenna
Special thanks to: Dr. Glenn O.I. Phillips, Dr. Vernon E Andrews, Ms. Norma Greaves, Mr. Ian Green, Mr. E. Lennard McKenna & Mrs. Anastacia Mulraine-Campbell, Forde Library, USC.
By: Hayden McKenna and Shelley Lyons
The University of the Southern Caribbean deeply mourns the passing of a stalwart supporter of our institution, who in her adult life and fruitful career, was exemplary and consistent in her unalloyed dedication to the cause of Christian education, holistic living, service to others, the love of family and the enabling of righteousness.
Shirley Ann Martinborough was born to Maisey and Gordon Martinborough Snr. in the colony of British Guiana (now the Co-operative Republic of Guyana) on Tuesday, 4th July, 1939.
In 1959, Shirley travelled to Trinidad and Tobago with her brother Gordon Jnr. and her fiancé Roy Israel McGarrell, to study on the campus of Caribbean Union College. This campus was chosen by the indisputable hand of providence to be the storage, which in the fullness of time, would receive the largest deposits of her future professional contributions. At Caribbean Union College, she completed an Associate of Arts Degree in Secretarial Science in 1961.
She returned to British Guiana in 1961 and served as an office secretary at the Guyana Mission of SDA in Georgetown from 1961 to 1963.
On Monday, 25th June, 1962 she married her beloved Roy. This happy union would produce children, Andre (deceased) Fern and Faith-Ann.
From 1963 until 1969, she served as an elementary school teacher at Wismar, Upper Demerara River, and at New Amsterdam, Berbice. Guyana’s national independence in May of 1966 met her as an open-handed patriot serving her country in this noble vocation.
With the introduction of the Bachelor of Theology degree at Caribbean Union College, Shirley’s husband Roy Israel McGarrell enrolled in the first cohort of the programme. Shirley accompanied him to CUC and was asked to serve as the college’s Dean of Women from 1970 to 1972.
The McGarrells returned to the Co-operative Republic of Guyana in 1970 and Shirley McGarrell returned to her former position as an office secretary at the Guyana Mission of Seventh-day Adventists. With the elevation of Pastor Roy McGarrell to the presidency of the Guyana Conference in 1976, Mrs. Shirley McGarrell carried her elegance, grace, and preparedness to the role of first lady and shepherdess of what was then the newest conference in the Caribbean Union, setting the bar very high for all of her successors.
In 1980, amidst a period of great theological turmoil in the global Adventist Church, the McGarrells left Guyana to further their education at Andrews University in Berrien Springs Michigan, USA. There, Shirley completed a Baccalaureate and Master of Arts degree in English, in 1983 and 1985 respectively. On this sojourn at Andrews University, she also had opportunities to use and develop her professional skills. She was privileged to serve in secretarial, tutorial and instructional roles.
In 1988, Mrs. McGarrell returned to Caribbean Union College, where she served as Chairperson of the English Department from 1988 to 1994, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences from 1995 to 1998, Vice President for Academic Administration from 1998 to 2001, Interim President from January 2002 to December 2002, Vice President for Academic Administration from 2003 to 2005 (during which time Caribbean Union College began its transition to university status), and finally as Vice President for General Administration from 2005 until her retirement in 2011. While ascending a creditable flight of accomplishments at CUC/USC, Mrs. McGarrell successfully completed a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Curriculum & Instruction, with an Advanced Cognate in English, in 2000.
Dr. McGarrell’s achievements as a faculty member and administrator at CUC/USC are nothing short of inspiring. They include:
- Establishing Alpha Mu Gamma, the first international chapter of Sigma Tau Delta (the English Honor Society), which she initiated and launched on the island of Trinidad and Tobago.
- Founding the first Writing Center on the campus of Caribbean Union College.
- Being the first woman to serve as Dean, Vice President for Academic Administration, Vice President for General Administration, and (Interim) President.
- Ushering in the early stages of the transition from CUC to USC, during her interim Presidency.
- Setting up various committees to continue the efforts towards the transition of CUC from college to university.
- Chairing the committee that created the present USC School Song and making a significant contribution to the lyrics.
- Teaching: Freshman Composition, Foundations of Curriculum Studies, Linguistics, Literature of the English Bible, Milton, Research Methods, and Thesis Preparation courses and more.
- Serving on and participating in numerous academic committees, accreditation site visits, and boards.
- Developing several short-term projects and successfully completing the refurbishing of the previous auditorium, extending the facilities of the Music room and the Theology Department, and constructing a new Physics laboratory.
- Constituting the Land Committee which developed the proposed layouts for land use and new dormitories on the campus.
- Recognizing the need to make CUC relevant with regard to new teaching, ensuring a new website was developed, with improved Internet access.
For these accomplishments and much more, Dr. Shirley McGarrell has received recognition for outstanding service, which include:
- Being named in Andrews University’s 100 Women of the Century in 2002.
- Having the USC campus wide Future Leaders’ Debate Competition being named in her honour, in 2014 and,
- A Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of the Southern Caribbean on the occasion of its 94th anniversary in 2021.
As a prolific writer, Dr. Shirley McGarrell has authored eight books in the scholarly, devotional, literary and experiential genres including Mouthfuls of Joy for Today, Rivulets of Patience for Today, Capsules of Time for Today, Debate on the Teaching of Literature: A Caribbean Viewpoint, and Awesome God—Little Miss Dolly. Her ruminations also appear in magazines and journals such as the Journal of Adventist Education, Tertiary Thoughts, Christ in the Classroom, and Shepherdess International. Perhaps her greatest labour of love as a writer was her 2010 publication sympathetically titled Living With A Man Named Roy: A Legacy of Love.
Dr. McGarrell was an extraordinary and compassionate teacher and life-model to her students and a standard-bearer to her colleagues. Her interactions with all inevitably left an ineradicable mark. But, to her students, especially her female students, she exemplified refinement and style, always dainty, but detailed and determined. As a lecturer, there was always a spiritual lesson in every class she taught, which has inspired many of her own students, now teachers, to craft their lessons similarly. One student, who is now a faculty member here at USC credits Dr. McGarrell with launching her teaching career and also distinctly remembers Dr. McGarrell asking her to share with her the one wedding present she, the student, really wanted, but did not receive. Of course, Dr. McGarrell bought that wedding gift for her then appreciative student.
Some students, now faculty members here at USC recall she always used green ink to mark their papers, for reasons which they can still only speculate. One of her students tells of a time when, during a lengthy three hour Humanities exam, she stopped the students, sent them to the cafeteria to have dinner, and then allowed them to return to complete their examination. Many of those students were struggling financially and have never forgotten that random act of kindness.
One evening, years ago, the lights went out on campus, just as class was about to start. Students were naturally eager for class to be dismissed. In those days, there was no back-up generator. Dr. Mac, as she was fondly called, told her students to hold on. She went to her office, retrieved a candle, brought it back to class, lit it and taught her class, much to her students’ surprise and amusement.
At other times Dr. Mac would take small groups of students to her home, to have class. Her infectious laughter sometimes surprised her students. And, students recount that she would always pray with them, whenever they visited her office. It was also the stubborn habit of Dr. Mac to end meetings of faculty and staff with everyone holding hands and singing “Bind Us Together” before the closing prayer. For colleagues and students, she modeled Christianity, with finesse, sprinkled with grace and humour. Her academic and administrative prowess, years of committed service, fidelity to duty and exemplary service will never be forgotten.
The USC board of trustees, administrators, faculty members, staff, students and alumni of the join in the celebration of the life and work of the late Dr. Shirley Ann McGarrell.
We express our heartfelt condolences to her husband Dr. Roy Israel McGarrell; their children, Fern Hudson and Faith Ann McGarrell; their son-in-law, Carl Hudson; their daughter-in-law, Grace McGarrell; grandchildren, Safiya Hudson, Stephen Hudson, Marcello McGarrell and Gabrielle McGarrell; her sister Mrs. Dolly Teixeira and brother-in-law Mr. Clement Teixeira, her sister-in-law Mrs. Waveney Martinborough and a host of cousins, nephews and nieces, personal and family friends.
“And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed arethe dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” Revelation 14:13.