The Forgotten Principal
Do you know the answer to the following question? Who is the only former Principal or Vice Chancellor of our institution after whom no building or monument is named? The answer:
Dr Walter Wyatt Grave, the Principal of the UCWI from 1953 to 1958. Is this a grave omission?
This lack of recognition of Grave is unfortunate as he assumed the headship of the institution only four years after its establishment and steered it during some eventful years. For instance, it was under his ‘watch’ that the first graduation was held in 1953, the University Hospital officially opened, Queen Elizabeth paid her first visit to the University, agreement reached that the College of Tropical Agriculture in Trinidad be integrated with the UCWI to become the College of Agriculture and the College became the responsibility of the West Indian Federation – with all the challenges that brought.
Of significance to archival development in the region, it was during Grave’s tenure that an Archives Committee was appointed and the College sponsored a survey of Caribbean Archives which led to a major microfilming project of the historical archives.
Philip Sherlock described Grave as “a sticker for detail, a sensitive retiring man” who was “… ill at ease at finding a way through the thorn-thickets of West Indian politics”. His abilities were however recognized for when he left the Senate thanked him for “the constant care that he has given to the management of the College’s affairs during a particular difficult period.”
In 1959 he assumed the position of Censor of Fitzwilliam House at Cambridge University and became its first Master when the House became a College in 1966. He retired in 1971 and died in 1999 at the age of 98 years. It is not known whether he ever returned to the West Indies after leaving. A portrait of him hangs in the foyer of the Council Room in the University’s Regional Headquarters.