We start a new series in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of The University of the West Indies as an independent degree granting institution.
We begin with Sir James Irvine, whose name is perpetuated in a hall of residence on the Mona Campus. He was the Vice Chancellor of the University of St Andrews in Scotland from 1921 until his death in 1952 and he chaired the West Indies Committee which toured the region in 1944 and recommended the establishment of a regional university. The Committee’s Report – known as the Irvine Report – is regarded as a seminal publication in regional development and is still relevant today.
Sir James was a member of the Provisional Council of the University College as a representative of the Inter University Council of Higher Education in the Colonies and although well into his 70’s, attended meetings of the Council from 1947 – 1950.
As a council member he was very influential and his advice was constantly sought by the Principal. His name was even one of those considered for the position as the Chancellor and as the Principal said “to choose him would be a very grateful compliment for all his work and enthusiasm on our behalf”. (UC-GA-143). However his age and his poor health mitigated against him.
One of the finest tributes to him was paid by his fellow Committee and later Council Member, Sir Raymond Priestley in his address to the first Presentation of Graduates Ceremony of the University College on January 13th 1953. After praising his work in chairing the Committee – “his benign wisdom enlightened our discussions”’- Priestley said the following: “his real memorial is UCWI for it was his child and he did more to shape it even than the great first Principal he found to launch it on its way. It is right that we should think first of him as we pluck the first fruits of the plant for which he prepared the ground so well”. (UC-GA-173)