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.
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.
Authored By: Hayden McKenna, University Writer
It is with apposite sadness that the administration, faculty and staff, students and alumni of the University of the Southern Caribbean join in the community of the bereaved occasioned by the recent passing of two truly outstanding former members of faculty in the persons of Ms. Bernice Eileen James and Dr. Ernest Wright. Their immaculate service records as faculty are but impressive understatements of the enriching value they added to the lives of their colleagues, students and neighbours as friends, mentors, motivators, disciplinarians and models of professional and Christian excellence. We extend our deepest condolences to the surviving siblings of Ms. James: Roland, Kathleen and Dr. Hollis James and to her many other relatives and close friends. Our sympathies are also with Mrs. Nora Margery Wright, Dr. Wright’s spouse of 47 years their daughters Manda and Michelle, and their circle of relatives and friends.
Born in south Trinidad on April 06, 1941, young Bernice James entered denominational service as a teacher with the South Caribbean Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in 1960. This was the beginning of s long, fruitful and influential tour of duty as an educator that clutched years from five decades. Ms. James taught at the Southern Academy of Seventh-day Adventists and at both the secondary and tertiary divisions of Caribbean Union College (CUC) now the University of the Southern Caribbean (USC). She also briefly served as Dean of Women at CUC in the final four months of 1980. Perhaps most prominently, Ms. James is remembered as an inspiring teacher of English Language, Literatures in English and Sociology.
Ms. James was a graduate of the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus who also pursued post-graduate studies at Andrews University in what she found to be the unbearable weather of Berrien Springs, Michigan in the USA.
According to retired teacher, Mrs. Dawn Smith, who Ms. James taught and mentored both at secondary school and at CUC/USC “Miss James (nicknamed BJ) was my big Sister. She was what she wanted her students to be. She had command over any topic… She engaged her students in conversations about life… She was a teacher inside and outside of the classroom.” In reflecting on the life led by Ms. James, Mr. Ian Green, her former colleague at CUC/USC remembers her as a person of “impeccable integrity with good Christian values…a role model”.
Also among the many CUC/USC alumni, gratified to have received by the positive influence of Ms. Bernice James is Pastor Easton Marks, the current Director of Sabbath School Ministries in the Northeastern Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in the USA. According to Pastor Marks, Bernice James was:
a great model of what I call middle of the road spirituality. I remember her one of the smartest, friendliest, and at the same time, predictably candid persons I interacted with at Caribbean Union College. If you over-pitched a ball to Ms. James, to use a cricketing analogy, it was going to the boundary. Complementing that was her unchanged countenance. You never sensed that she was celebrating her shot. She would be quite professional and wait for the next bad delivery. I really admired that about her. As a teacher, she was always prepared for her class. She encouraged students who were struggling academically, financially, and otherwise. She was that older sister you had on campus… I will be forever grateful she was a part of the village that raised me.
Ms. Bernice James was called to rest April 24, 2022.
Dr. Ernest Wright was born in the village of Moriah on the island of Tobago on December 17, 1936. In 1955, as a student of the Harmon School of Seventh-day Adventist, he attained the enviable academic distinction of Grade I at the external Senior Cambridge Examinations. He then studied at Caribbean Union College to qualify for entry into pastoral ministry and there attained 14th Grade certification in Theology in 1963. He later completed a Bachelor of Theology Degree at Columbia Union College (now Washington Adventist University) in 1968. Ernest Wright served the Adventist Church as a ministerial intern and licensed minister and in his pastoral career, was privileged to be one of the 63 ministerial workers who labored for the baptism of a record 812 souls in the 11-week evangelistic campaign – the so called “Trinidad Triumph” -conducted by African American evangelist E.E. Cleveland in Port of Spain, Trinidad in 1966.
Ernest Wright would again yield to his academic passions earning a Master of Arts and a Doctor of Philosophy in History from Howard University in Washington D.C. USA in 1972 and 1976 respectively. Following a stint as Teacher and Head of the History Department at Antillian College (now Antillian Adventist University) in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, Dr. Wright returned to his alma mater, Caribbean Union College in July of 1980 as a teacher. Here he played an invaluable role in the development of the Bachelor of History programme and became Head of the History Department in 1983.
As a member of faculty at Caribbean Union College and Head of the History Department, Dr. Wright consistently carried a no-nonsense professional bearing. It is perhaps this idiosyncrasy combined with his association with history that earned him the austere nickname ‘El Draco’. This seriousness was also inspiring. CUC/USC alumnus and former principal and retired supervisor of schools, Mr. Aaron Smith, in reflecting on Dr. Wright says that “his objective for excellence inspired me. He stimulated his students to excellence and to become something… He was well acquainted with his content… He was generally very outstanding in his presentations.”
Another alumnus Mrs. Dawn Smith remembers Dr. Wright particularly for the rich way in which he included on-spot investigation in his instructional method. He organized local and foreign field trips for his students. Mrs. Smith particularly recalls two foreign trips, one to North America and another to at least seven countries of Europe. For these ambitious outings History Department became the “envy of the school” according to Mrs. Smith.
In 1988 Dr. Wright accepted a call to serve in the North Caribbean Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, which brought to an end his impactful sojourn at CUC/USC.
Dr. Wright was called to rest on April 30, 2022.
Author: Hayden McKenna
The president, administration, faculty and staff, students, alumni, family and friends of the University of the Southern Caribbean join in mourning the recent passing of an outstanding citizen and leader in our global university community. Having lived for an entire century and some extra days, the brilliant lifetime innings of Dr. George Carlington Simmons closed on December 30th 2021, in the presence of family.
We express our deepest condolences to his closest surviving relatives: his daughter Cheryl G. Simmons, his son George W. Simmons, his brother E. Martin Simmons, his grand-daughter Brooke Simmons, numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
George Carlington Simmons, affectionately called “Charlie” by some and “Fowler” by others, came to the crease in the Parish of St. Lucy on the British colony of Barbados on September 04, 1921. It is at St. Lucy he played his first watchful twenty. As his confidence grew, in 1941, he breached the boundary of life in St. Lucy and by 1945 he graduated from Caribbean Training College (now the University of the Southern Caribbean) in Maracas Valley, St. Joseph, Trinidad. His ambitious stroke-play, took him over several other notable academic, professional and personal boundaries.
His busy scoreboard was kept active at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA, where he added a Baccalaureate degree to his score in 1951. The boundaries of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois; St. Andrews University in Scotland, UK and the prestigious Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA were all conquered as this prodigious Barbadian added a Master of Arts degree (1953), a diploma in Education, (1960) and a Doctor of Philosophy degree (1963) respectively in his impressive run of form.
He was far from finished though. His education in the middle, prepared him for a celebrated career as an educator, classical scholar, bibliophile and philanthropist that extended beyond sixty years. In his rich professional life, he continued his assault on boundaries, taking the singles and twos also and drew-out a balanced wagon-wheel of accomplishments and service, in the Caribbean, North America and Europe. Dr. Simmons has lectured in Canada, Germany, Romania, and Britain. His scholarly articles and book reviews have appeared in several peer-review journals. Dr. Simmons co-authored with his wife the late Dr. Esther Simmons The Torch of Knowledge: A History of Bowie State University 1865 to 2005.
Dr. George Carlington Simmons has held academic professorships at the State University of New York (SUNY) Cortland and Brockport, and the University of Rochester. He retired from SUNY Brockport in 1985. In his retirement Dr. Simmons served for ten unbroken years (1990-2000) on the NY State Board of Professional Medical Conduct.
As a philantrophist, with a deep interest in community life and the plight of the urban poor, Dr. Simmons was attracted to the membership and work of several social and community organizations including Community Chest, Genesee Valley Group Health Association, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, YMCA, Gannett Foundation, the Bicentennial Committee of Rochester and Monroe County, and the Courtland Rotary Club. He also served as chairman of the National Council of Urban League Presidents, and as board president of the Urban League of Rochester, the Urban-Suburban Inter-District Transfer Program, and the Baden Street Settlement House. In recognition of more than 35 years of service as board member, on July 28, 1998, the Baden Street Settlement House named its new counseling and support center in his honour.
As an alumnus of USC, Dr. Simmons exhibited fidelity to a fault. In 1985, in response to the urgent need for a specialized reference library at the University of the Southern Caribbean, he established the George Carlington Simmons Collection. From a modest beginning, he grew the collection to approximately eight thousand volumes, on subjects of wide human interest including but not limited to Philosophy, Greek Literature, Psychology, Theology and Biblical Studies, Geography and Cartography, Music and Fine Arts, English Literature, History and Culture. The collection also includes a wide range of dictionaries and rare books including the 1600-year-old Codex Sinaiticus.
As a compatible companion to the collection, Dr. Simmons established and funded the George Carlington Simmons Collection Annual Lecture Series in 2004. Over the years, this series has featured talks from distinguished scholars and thought-leaders of international renown. The series has also attracted as patrons, Caribbean heads of state, prime ministers and senior members of the diplomatic corps. It quickly earned its place as a marquee event on the annual USC calendar.
Apart from donating the collection and organizing and funding the distinguished lecture series, Dr. Simmons’ affection for USC has made him a generous supporter of innumerable other university projects. His means, ideas, good name and influence were freely and passionately given to the steadfast pursuit of a more perfect USC.
In his well-constructed innings, Dr. Simmons also demonstrated the ability to play the role of a supportive partner on the non-striker’s end. USC benefitted greatly from this abetting aptitude when in October of 2003, Caribbean Union College, as USC was then known, suddenly required leadership. He teamed up with his wife the late Dr. Esther Simmons to give their beloved alma mater stabilizing leadership. In this partnership, he assumed the supportive role of interim Assistant to the President with the late Dr. Esther Simmons taking the strike as interim President.
On December 30, 2021, he was called from the crease by a declaration from the Divine Skipper. We will miss the sight and sound of his elegant stroke-play and we will sorrow, but not as those who have no hope. We believe that “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” Let us “comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4: 16-18).
On September 25th 2021, the Church History Suite at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary (SATS) at Andrews University (AU) was named after the very influential, retired professor and pastor, Dr. Walter Baxter Theophilus Douglas. Positioned in a conspicuous place of honour on the upper floor of the building, is an artist’s portrait of the man who in 1972, became the first person of colour to join the teaching faculty of the SATS at AU. Dr. Douglas served with distinction as a scholar and member of teaching faculty at the ATS and in several other roles at AU for thirty-five years.
In his acceptance speech at the naming ceremony, Douglas, an alumnus of Caribbean Union College, Andrews University, McGill University and McMaster University chose to single-out Caribbean Union College (CUC) – now the University of the Southern Caribbean (USC) – as the veritable point of original inspiration for the distinguished life of service he has led.
Walter Douglas – at the insistence of his mother – came to the campus of Caribbean Training College (the immediate institutional forerunner to CUC) in the early 1950s from his native Grenada. He was an impressionable, eager, and intellectually curious sixteen-year-old. His studies on the campus prepared him for the gospel ministry in the first instance, and also laid a solid foundation for his illustrious career as a scholar, consultant, servant-leader and the many other interesting things he has done with his life.
Douglas graduated from CUC as part of the very impressive class of 1958 and entered a brief stint of pastoral ministry in Port of Spain, Trinidad. His ambitions quickly took him to AU where he completed a baccalaureate degree in theology. He soon returned to CUC in 1963 as a member of its teaching faculty. Later in that year, he married Yvonne Sebro, an alumna of CUC and the daughter of Pastor Frederick A. Sebro – one of the first male students at East Caribbean Training School (the earliest formation of USC). Yvonne has been his supporter and partner in ministry, parenthood and life for almost fifty-eight years – and yes, they had a CUC campus wedding.
In 1964, Walter Douglas was one of quite a few youthful members of CUC’s teaching faculty to leave for North America to further their studies. He returned to Andrews University and there, as an exceptional graduate student, he left such an impression that soon after he moved to Canada for further graduate study at McGill University, he was invited by then AU president, Dr. Richard Hammill, to join the teaching faculty at the seminary. Douglas negotiated a postponed acceptance in order to complete his studies at McGill. In 1972, he took up what by then was a three-year old invitation and joined the teaching faculty at the seminary. He specialized in church history and the history or religion. He later added the emerging field of multiculturalism and diversity studies to his academic and professional skillset and was the founder and first director of The Institute for Diversity and Multiculturalism at AU.
In the privileged position of professor at the seminary – the epicenter of Adventist thought, research, scholarship and pastoral training – Dr. Douglas immensely impacted the world church directly and through his former students. For seminarians, being taught by Dr. Douglas became a rite of passage. The full stretch of his influence there will only be known when the records of heaven are unsealed. As for the more measurable, his exceptional work as a teacher and scholar at AU, earned him the John Nevins Andrews Medallion in 1993 – the superlative award AU reserves for its best scholars.
The demands of academic and professional responsibilities did not ameliorate the burden of his call to pastoral ministry and the pulpit. He was one the founders of the All Nations Seventh-day Adventist Church in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA and was its senior pastor from 1980 to 2004. Even after his retirement from AU, Dr. Douglas continued active pastoral ministry in Florida.
Beyond the cloisters of the denominational work, Dr. Douglas’ expertise and body of work in the field of multiculturalism and diversity studies brought him many special assignments in various parts of the world. One of the most memorable of these assignments for him, was his call to participate in an interim transitional government in his birthplace Grenada, after the fall of the People’s Revolutionary Government and the US led military intervention there in 1983.
In a reflective conversation with Dr. Colwick Wilson, the current president of USC, Dr. Douglas expressed thanks to God for the privilege and opportunity of spending thirty-five years in service to Andrews University and the world. He considered it an opportunity to represent CUC/USC at that level and that it was an honour for him to do so. He added that no man is an island and as such, his success is tied directly to the University of the Southern Caribbean. It was at CUC/USC that he experienced a call to ministry; it was there that he found Jesus; and it was there that he found his wife. Dr. Douglas even somehow managed to ‘grand-father’ the impact of CUC/USC into his explanation of the success of his three very accomplished adult children. He argues with a persuasive conviction that the blessings that he and his wife received from CUC/USC translated into opportunities for their children to be educated at some of the finest universities in North America and to experience outstanding successes in their own careers. Their children are Vonda, a pathologist; Derek, an attorney, university administrator and former aide to former US President Barack Obama; and La Vonne, a clinical psychologist.
The president, administration, faculty, staff, student, alumni, family and friends of the University of the Southern Caribbean here record heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Walter B.T. Douglas on his most recent honour and the inspiration and pride it carries for the people of the Caribbean.
Gordon Ornsley Martinborough was born to Maisey and Gordon Martinborough Snr. in the colony of British Guiana (now the Co-operative Republic of Guyana) on November 12th 1936. He was the first of their four children. His father was employed as a policeman while his mother was an industrious homemaker. And so, the circumstances of Pooksie’s childhood were humble yet stable. Pooksie was his childhood alias, his home name. He is remembered by his sister, Shirley, as being a caring, bread-baking, older brother, tainted too by the common mischievousness of boyish childhood, but exceptional in his pursuit of a relationship with God and manifesting from early on, an intense devotion to prayer, biblical and academic scholarship and to evangelism and mission – a precocious priming for the greatness he would become when he would put away childish things. He also displayed in his youth an affection for church work. This blossomed in his teenage years as a member of the Buxton Seventh-day Adventist Church. Here he served as the leader of the local Missionary Volunteers Society (now called the Adventist Youth Society). In this capacity, his skills as an organizer and church leader truly developed. Gordon purposed to enlarge the territory of his preparedness for the Master’s service and his teachability abetted this well.
After completing his secondary education, Gordon Martinborough entered the teaching service and was assigned to the Enmore Government School. There, he excelled as a young teacher, so much so that when he wrote the first round of examinations in a three tiered teacher qualification system, he was adjudged as being qualified to be exempted from the second round.
In 1959, young Gordon Ornsley Martinborough and his best friend Roy Israel McGarrell, who also taught at the Enmore Government School, demitted the teaching service together and enrolled at Caribbean Union College (now the University of the Southern Caribbean) to study for the gospel ministry. Predictably, Gordon took with him a steadfast fidelity to fineness and was determined to succeed with the help, or above the hindrance of his instructors. His commitment to an active prayer-life did not suffer the pressures of study. His comrade, Roy, remembers of their college years that they would habitually “rise at 5:00 a.m. when sleep was ‘sweetest’ to go to the old broom shop to pray. We prayed together in the first session, then we separated to have our personal conversations with our heavenly Father.” With the winning combination of such faith and hard work, Gordon did exceedingly well in his studies at CUC so that he was selected as the valedictorian of the class of 1961.
It is at CUC, too, that he was drawn to Waveney Hinds who reciprocated his interest. Deep love and friendship resulted and in 1963 they were married and remained happily so, until the time of his passing. Gordon and Waveney Martinborough were soulmates, partners in parenthood and in ministry.
Pastor Gordon Martinborough’s denominational career has been inspiring and impactful. He has served the church in various capacities at various rungs of the structure of the world church, resolutely maintaining a passion for evangelism and keeping a wide berth from mediocrity and the ease of ordinariness. After being employed as an intern and district pastor in the Guyana Mission, a discomfort with his probably overworked voice, led him to Loma Linda Hospital in California, USA in search of a remedy. While there, he grasped the opportunity for further education, earning a Baccalaureate degree in Religion and History in 1972 and an MA in Church History in 1976 before returning to Guyana. In 1980, he was elected to the presidency of the Guyana Conference (the Guyana Mission became a self-supporting conference in 1976).
Following an outstanding term as Personal Ministries Director of the Caribbean Union Conference (CARU), he was elected to its presidency in 1991. As President of CARU, he assumed the chairmanship of the Board of Trustees of Caribbean Union College. In this capacity he worked with board and the administration of then college president Dr. Sylvan A. Lashley to persuade the government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to forgive an insurmountable TT$12,000,000 debt that encumbered the college. Here, the fortuitous entering wedge was probably the goodwill generated with government insiders after the Executive Secretary of CARU, Dr. Peter J. Prime, found the lost wallet of a senior Cabinet Minister and returned it to him unharmed – God’s ways are past finding out.
Under Pastor Martinborough’s chairmanship and Dr. Lashley’s presidency, the enrolment at CUC grew from around 300 students in 1991 to in excess of 1000 students in 1995, residential accommodation for students was expanded, the Science Complex was completed and furnished and the University Auditorium was relocated to a far more commodious space at the present site. Dr. Lashley recalls that:
Every day, at noon-day, he would call me to pray for the campus. This made an indelible impression upon my mind. He displayed a high sense of trust and faith…. Dr. Martinborough championed family life as a ministry and this became a part of my leadership practice also… Thank you Dr. Martinborough for your triumvirate example of prayer, faith and family. It has shaped my own ministry of practice and has become your gift to leadership in the Adventist world church.
In 1995 he rose to the Inter American Division where he served in various roles including Associate Ministerial Secretary, Vice President, Division Evangelist and Co-director of Family Ministries with his wife, Waveney. Pastor Martinborough was also instrumental in bringing the Adventist Laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI) movement to the IAD. Throughout his meteoric flight of promotions in his denominational career, his passion for soul-winning and developing superior implements for evangelism never abated. Gordon Martinborough was a thinker, a teacher and a prolific writer who thought, taught and wrote to his ministerial calling and practice.
Consonant with this, he wrote and published several manuals, Bible lessons, seminars and books on practical, family life and health evangelism. His written works have been published in several languages and successfully deployed in diverse cultures globally. His published works include: New Life Campaign Kit (1979), Operation Andrew Manual (1980), Health and Life Lessons (co-authored with Pastor Collin Parkinson (1984)), Family of God Crusade Handbook (1989), Family Life Evangelism Manual (1992, 2004 & 2010), I Love You (1995), Happy Family Bible Seminars Study Guides (2002 & 2006), Health Evangelism Campaign Manual, (2018) and the Healthy and Happy Seminar Study Guides (2018). The number of souls persuaded for Christ through the far-flung reach of this aspect of his contribution can only be numbered by heaven. Martinborough also published articles in the Adventist Review and the Ministry Magazine.
In 2005, he retired from denominational employment but never abandoned his duty to the gospel commission. He co-founded Happy Family Bible Seminars International with his wife, Waveney, and targeted the global community with their brand of practical family life evangelism and wellness. The programmes they have produced for television have been aired regionally and globally on 3ABN, Safe TV, Hope TV and LLBN.
Pastor Gordon Ornsley Martinborough has led an incredibly inspiring life that has personified the mission and motto of USC, his alma mater. He has modelled what an “extraordinary servant of God to humanity” looks like and in his 84 years on this earth has managed to go “beyond excellence!” For his life and work, the University of the Southern Caribbean conferred on this deserving recipient the Doctor of Divinity honoris causa at its eighty-fifth graduation ceremony in 2018.
The ultimate valediction for a life so richly lived composes a swansong of complex and variegated emotions – the melancholy of bereavement for precious loss co-mingled with the celebration of triumph, achievement and completion.
The board of trustees, administration, faculty, staff, students and community of the University of the Southern Caribbean joins in the mournful celebration of the life and work of the late Dr. Gordon Ornsley Martinborough. We express our heartfelt condolences to his wife Waveney, their three children, Dr. Esther Biamonte, Samuel and John Martinborough, their son-in-law, Dr. Marco Biamonte, his sisters, Dr. Shirley McGarrell and Mrs. Dolly Teixeira, their husbands, Dr. Roy McGarrell and Clement Teixeira and a host of cousins, nephews and nieces, personal and family friends.
Another decorated soldier of the cross has been called home to rest after serving distinguished tours of duty in the Master’s service. Psalm 116:15 instructs us that “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” The Lord counts it as “precious” that Dr. Gordon Ornsley Martinborough is finished with the troubles of this world. May we allow the life of this exemplary alumnus to inspire us.
Founded in 1927 the University of the Southern Caribbean (USC), the longest serving higher education institution in the southern Caribbean, celebrates 94 years of providing transformative education. On the weekend of August 27-29, 2021, USC will climax with apposite fanfare the celebration of our 94th anniversary.
Hosted by our 29th president, Dr. Colwick M. Wilson, USC’s administration, faculty, staff, and students invite you to our Founders’ Day 2021 celebration. Our festivities this year, themed “Celebrating our Legacy: Reconnect, Recommit, Reimagine” will intentionally optimize the advantages afforded by virtual communication technology to tightly wrap the globe with rich opportunities for USCian patriotism, comradeship, exchange, sharing and the reunion of USC alumni and friends wherever they are.
Beginning on August 1, 2021, as we countdown to Founders’ Day 2021, our website, social platforms and other media will come alive with stories and memories of our alumni who are #USCSTRONG, tributes to our beloved alma mater, and visions of the present-day USC continuously moving Beyond Excellence!
For a schedule of the weekend’s activities and further initiatives, visit: usc.edu.tt/foundersday