Did You Know?!: The Elsa Goveia Memorial Lecture Series

As the month of March marches past us, we reflect on the collection of tribute lectures that has marked this month, the Elsa Goveia Memorial Lectures, which is held in all three campuses of the University. This series of lectures pays tribute to the first female professor at the University College of the West Indies, Professor Elsa Goveia 1926-1980. Goveia joined the staff of the University in 1950 and was appointed professor in 1961.

Professor Elsa Goveia, first woman appointed Professor in The UWI, Professor of West Indian History.

Professor Elsa Goveia, first woman appointed Professor in The UWI, Professor of West Indian History.

The University Archives, in its role as the custodian of the memories of the UWl, now including those documented in audiovisual formats gleaned from the Library of the Spoken Word (LSW), continues to highlight gems from this collection. The Elsa Goveia Memorial Lectures that are part of the LSW collection include those presented at Mona between 1989 and the present. This lecture series boast many well respected academic luminaries which include Caribbean greats such as Kamau Braithwaite in 2000, Prof Hilary Beckles in 1997, Prof Rex Nettleford in 1995 and Prof Woodville Marshall in 1990 among others. The inaugural memorial lecture was presented by the fantastic duo of Professor Leslie Robinson and Professor Sir Roy Augier in 1985. Interestingly Sir Roy Augier continued to be an important part of the subsequent lectures having introduced the main presenter at most if not all the memorial lectures held at Mona.

The inaugural memorial lecture captures Professor Augier with a bit of angst rifling through a debate about the role of the University in the Caribbean. He firstly sets about challenging his audience to consider whether the region in 1985 needed a university. “No doubt” he agreed, that the region needs an institution of higher learning. In this challenge he defined a university as “a cooperation, a community of learning of a special kind” separate from an academy, school or institute. In contexualizing his argument Prof Augier referenced Bologna and Paris, “one founded by students and the other by masters”. Professor Augier also described the university as” the Kingdom of the mind over which reason reigns”.

The lecture explored particularly the role of the University of the West Indies and its relationship with the University of Guyana in the context of the geopolitics of the Caribbean circa 1985. He detailed the charter and challenges of many of the universities in and around the region including the University of Puerto Rico. Some of these universities had at their disposal far more resources than this university even then in 1985. It is interesting the contending political views about this university and other universities in the Caribbean region within context of 1980’s Caribbean politics.

With this post we welcome another blogger to the University Archives Blog Team, Kwasi Tinglin, who will share as often as possible on the treasures in the audiovisual records of the University Archives. 

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