A UWI, St. Augustine, group of graduates who have been reconnecting and networking over the last four years held their first in-person reunion in Trinidad and Tobago from September 21 – 24, 2023.
Drawn from across the region, the group members were all Freedom (Milner) Hall residents between 1960 and 1990. They included eminent alums like Justice Ivor Archie, Chief Justice of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and Professor Brian Copeland, former Principal of the St Augustine Campus.
During the four-day reunion, members of the group, calling themselves The Freedom (Milner) Hall Network Group, engaged in a number of activities geared towards reconnecting with each other and The UWI, St Augustine.
One of the key events was a visit to the St. Augustine Campus, which included a welcome ceremony chaired by Dr. Deirdre Charles, Director of the Division of Student Services and Development (DSSD). In her remarks, Dr. Charles congratulated the Group on the establishment of its Mentorship Programme and Scholarship Bursaries.
She saw these initiatives as a template for the involvement of other former resident students across all the campuses of The University. She also urged the members to become part of the alumni associations in their home states.
During the ceremony, the Group also launched the Dr. Keith Archibald Benevolent Fund with a contribution of TT$10,000.00 for students with immediate needs.
The late Dr. Archibald was a former Warden of Freedom (Milner) Hall who acted as a mentor for the former students.
Also addressing the group was Deputy Principal, Professor Indar Ramnarine, Registrar, Dr Dawn Marie De Four-Gill and a member of the Student Guild.
In addition, the former “Milnerites” were also informed of the reasons for and challenges which have necessitated the current closure of Freedom Hall and the plans for its restoration. The alumni were also guided on a tour of the hall by Mr Kevin Snaggs and Ms. Georgia Alexander of the Student Accommodation Office, for them to see the current state of the buildings they once called home.
The Group also hosted a lunch session forum with faculty members and some of the student mentees in the Freedom (Milner) Hall Network Group Mentorship Programme. During the session, the students shared positively about the impact that the programme was having on their lives as they navigate campus life.
The feedback and interactions with the staff and students served to reinforce the importance of continuing and expanding the programme to more students.
At a gala dinner on September 22, the Group paid tribute to former members of the management and support staff of Milner Hall, including Dr. Keith Archibald, Mrs. Glenda Harnanan (who was there in person), Mrs. Gloria Lewis-Jackson, “Rago,” “Spanish” and “Chico.” These persons made an indelible impact on members of the group while they lived on the hall. They were never forgotten.
In his keynote address at the gala, the Honourable Chief Justice of Trinidad and Tobago, Mr. Ivor Archie (Class of 1981) reflected on his own journey and challenged his UWI colleagues to continue to work towards building a legacy of service and support.
“In this room today is the first gathering of a Caribbean Think Tank to create solutions for our region. Achievements can and will eventually be surpassed, but one’s legacy can never be replicated. It is the unique imprint that we leave on the lives we touch,” he told the attendees. “We don’t get to define our own legacy; we only control our choices. Others write the history, but if there is only one thing they have to say about me, I want it to be that ‘he made a difference,” the Chief Justice said.
His message was echoed in the closing Thanksgiving Service by Mr. Kenn Banks (Class of 1979), who also spoke of protecting the legacy.
He reflected on God’s question to a scared and tired Elijah as he hid in a cave: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ “God gave Elijah a new direction for his ministry: put others in place who would build on his legacy. Our task is not unlike Elijah’s new assignment to anoint kings and mentor the young Elisha who would replace him,” Banks opined.
“We, too, have to ensure that our legacy is not only maintained but also used as a foundation to take our region and our individual countries further than we ever dreamed. To that end, we need to nurture and endorse trustworthy ‘Kings’ of Industry, ‘Kings’ of Government and ‘Kings’ of Academia, and mentor young people to replace us. If we don’t, then, ‘What are we doing here’?’”
The UWI, St. Augustine, Freedom (Milner) Hall Network Group has expressed its appreciation to members of the Organising Committee, including Chair, Mr. Peter Jenkins, Dr. Samuel Scott, Mrs. Flores Griffith-Nichols, Mr. Kinsgley St. Hill, Mrs. Sharon Heath, Ms Janice Besson, Ms Avril Ross, Ms Antonia MacDonald, Ms Kathleen Tuitt, Mr. Frazer Jones, Mr. Francios Lee, Mr. Derrick Lue, and Mr. Howard Barrett, as well as the various sponsors, for their commitment and support.
As they continue to reconnect and network, the Group is looking forward to working with other UWI alumni to build a legacy of service and support.
SOURCE: Dr. Samuel Scott, Ph.D