From Our Records – Persons who shaped Our University

The second in a series in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of The University of the West Indies as an independent degree granting institution

Sir Thomas Taylor

It is perhaps appropriate that we feature Sir Thomas Taylor the first Principal of the University College of the West Indies at this time, when the campuses of the University hold matriculation ceremonies to welcome new students.  It makes us recall that exactly 64 years ago, the then UCWI started with 33 students and now the University has around 40,000 students  in campuses and sites all around the Caribbean region.

Sir Thomas Taylor is chiefly remembered today as the person after whom Taylor Hall on the Mona Campus was named.  But who was Taylor, as generations of ‘Taylorites’ must have asked and what was his contribution to the institution?  Sir Philip Sherlock answers the question by simply saying that although Taylor Hall commemorates his name, “the University is in great part his monument”.

To Taylor fell the unenviable and challenging task of establishing a university college in Jamaica following acceptance of the Irvine Committee Report.  Arriving in Jamaica in October 1946 he led the process of, among other things, obtaining land and preparing building plans for a college; hiring staff; establishing a governance framework; securing funds from the British government on an on-going basis; preparing a teaching programme; recruiting students and ensuring support and good will for the College from the territories in the region.

It was a mammoth task but by October 1948 all was in place for teaching to begin. Sir Thomas Taylor’s contribution to the University is well documented in the Archives as there are numerous letters, memoranda etc. by him and from these records, as well as references to him in minutes of meetings, one can build up a picture of the man and his commitment to the institution. He did not live to see the College come of age as he resigned in 1951 and died a year later.  However the role he played in the University’s history will not be forgotten.

Sir Thomas Taylor

Principal of the University College of the West Indies, Sir Thomas Taylor, at his desk. (Image credit: UWI: A Photographic Journey, 1998)

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