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A passionate patriot, respected academic
The former president Professor George Maxwell Richards is being described as “a talented professional, a vibrant and respected academic, a passionate patriot, a dedicated and committed family man, and very dear friend.”
The latest tribute comes from Professor and chairman of the Board of Directors of the University of Trinidad and Tobago Ken Julien.
Describing it as “difficult to encapsulate the impact of a statesman who stood tall among his peers and countrymen–literally and figuratively–in just a few words,” Julien said the late President “embodied the ideals of excellence, dedication and compassion.”
Richards, he said, served the country “with distinction,” from his stint as an engineer in the petroleum industry; an academic in the then-fledgling Faculty of Engineering at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine campus.
Julien said Richards was one of the pioneers of the Department of Chemical Engineering and played an important role in developing the department’s capability in process industries, and as a senior administrator at the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies, navigated the institution through some of its most difficult periods.
“At the centre of Professor Richards’ life,” he said, “was a constant search for and attainment of excellence in the fields of academia and education.”
As President of the country, he said, Richards “articulated his desire for a stronger, more unified, compassionate and progressive Trinidad and Tobago; and as Chancellor of UTT, the country’s national university, where his enthusiasm to engage with and motivate the young generation was boundless.”
According to Julien, the late president “endeared himself to those with whom he interacted.”
“His gentle, accommodating and engaging nature reflected a deep and sincere interest in people and in treating people with dignity,” he said.
The legacy of the late President, he said, is “his stellar contribution to his beloved Trinidad and Tobago, his efforts to build a better country, and in his countless accolades and achievements continuing to serve as a symbol of excellence to be emulated by current and future generations.”
Julien said, “there is a proverb that says–Good men must die, but death cannot kill their names. George Maxwell Richards will be remembered for quite some time to come, but his presence will be deeply missed.”
A GENTLEMAN WHO DID HIS JOB EFFECTIVELY— SAT MAHARAJ
Also paying tribute to Richards yesterday was Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Satnarayn Maharaj who told the T&T Guardian he met the former President on a number of occasions “and he even attended our functions and participated.”
Maharaj recalled an example of the kind of man Richards was telling.
“President Richards was a patron of the Arima Race Club and we were having children’s Phagwa celebration on the same Saturday. He left the Arima Race Club at around 2.30 that afternoon and came to join the children at Phagwa celebrations and he got soaked by the children. But he had great fun and took it all in stride,” Maharaj said.
“The image I have of him is that he was a gentleman who participated in whatever the country had to offer. He was always available. He was a fun kind of person, you see him in Carnival costume with the revellers just enjoying himself and having fun.”
“He was a gentleman and did his job as President quite effectively,” Maharaj said.
A CULTURAL CONNOISSEUR-CARMONA
President Anthony Carmona in extending his own condolences to the family hailed the country’s fourth President as “a true cultural connoisseur with effusive joie de vivre.”
“Professor Richards had a core vision of a progressive and transformational sustainability that recognised the need to move away from that debilitating dependency syndrome sometimes associated with Caribbean governance.”
It was in adherence to this, Carmona said, that Richards started the annual UWI All-Inclusive Endowment Fund Fete, “an excellent innovation that created a source of funding to support needy and deserving students through bursaries and thus, assisted hundreds of students to remain at the university and complete their degrees. We are forever indebted to him for helping those UWI students realise their dreams and aspirations.”
He recalled Richards words at the opening of Parliament in 2012, when he admonished Parliamentarians to “ensure even-handedness and transparency in policies that affect the welfare of all our citizens,” and advised that they needed to be “more conscious of the provisions of our Constitution. We should take the trouble to inform ourselves of what is, in fact, a contract between the people of this nation and our leaders. It is a contract that goes beyond the contemporary high points of election drama that takes place from time to time.”
Carmona said, “If, as a nation, we wish to be true to the tenets of our Constitution and to our democracy which we hold dear, now is as good a time as any, to reflect and embrace those words, ideas and sentiments,” of the late President.
STATE FUNERAL ON WEDNESDAY
The body will lie in State at the Parliament tower from 10 am to 6 pm on Monday.
On Tuesday, the body will be taken to the University of West Indies, St Augustine campus enroute to the National Academy for the Performing Arts. The body will lie in State from 10 am to 6 pm. Funeral service scheduled for 10 am on Wednesday at Napa.
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