St. George’s University School of Arts and Sciences and Graduate Studies Program Commencement Largest on Record

St. George’s University hosted its 2009 Commencement Ceremony for the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) and the Graduate Studies Program (GSP) at the new $14 million (EC) Charter Hall on the True Blue campus on Saturday, May 16th. A procession of graduates, proudly clad in traditional cap and gown, was a moving segway to an exceptional ceremony.

Dr. Calum Macpherson, Vice Provost for International Program Development and Dean, Graduate Studies Program served as Chair of the afternoon’s ceremony, welcoming an audience of over 700 family members and friends of the graduates and St. George’s University faculty. This was the largest School of Arts and Sciences and Graduate Studies Program Commencement Ceremony on record, presenting a total of 120 SAS graduates and 126 graduates from the Graduate Studies Program from 25 countries across the globe.

 Commencement Speaker

A customary highlight of the ceremony is the Commencement Address, which was delivered this year by the Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), Sir K. Dwight Venner.  Sir Dwight Venner’s  poignant speech drew upon an impressive 20-year career as Governor of the ECCB and a trained economist, addressing the survival of small island states in a world of socio-economic Goliaths.  In a world where countries (referring specifically to Russia, China, India, and Brazil) with extreme wealth, size, population, resources, and skilled labor force frequently wield considerable power, Dr. Venner questioned how Eastern Caribbean islands can successfully find their place as key participants. The Governor stressed the importance of education, and how its deficiencies have significantly stood in the way of the Caribbean’s development in the 21st century. “Education is critical in this new millennium, in the most fundamental way,” he said.

Dr. Venner praised St. George’s University’s commitment to education, as he believes, “Universities must be actively involved within their countries, searching  for the solution for global education and development.” He credits St. George’s University for reaching beyond its initial foundation of medical education and empowering a new generation of students with the establishment of the School of Arts and Sciences. “The School of Arts and Sciences,” said Dr. Venner, “sent a signal of permanence, more permanent than the construction of buildings.”

The Liberal Studies program in particular struck a chord with Dr. Venner.  He expressed with eloquence: “The full breadth of education and education philosophy, particularly through the humanities, is a vital factor in the development of our civilization.” He continued, “It is through humanities and its artistic expression that we could eliminate the dark side of the human race.” In closing, he expressed that St. George’s University, in creating and development the School of Arts and Sciences, may unexpectedly send a message to the entire world… “We are all citizens of the World.  We are the World.  We are the People.”

Since its inception, the School of Arts and Sciences has graduated 149 Grenadian students and 37 regional students with bachelor’s degrees.

The ECCB was established in October 1983, serving as the Monetary Authority for eight island economies: Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Commonwealth of Dominica; Grenada; Monsterrat; St. Kitts and Nevis; St. Lucia; and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Prior to his current role at the ECCB, Governor Venner applied his skills to the position of Director of Finance and Planning in the St. Lucian Government from 1981 to 1989. He has published extensively in the areas of monetary and international economics, central banking, public finance, economic development, political economy, and international economic relations.

Sir. K. Dwight Venner joins a list of internationally recognized Caribbean luminaries whose lives and words have inspired St. George’s University Commencement classes. Past speakers include the University of West Indies Chancellor, Professor E. Nigel Harris; Former Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. the Right Hon. Keith Mitchell; the Governor General of St. Lucia, Dame Pearlette Louisy; the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and Grenadines, Dr. The Hon. Ralph Gonsalves; and the Hon. Mr. Justice Adrian Saunders of the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Dr. Calum Macpherson introduced Sir Paul Scoon, GCMG GCVO OBE, as the 2009 recipient of the Order of the Mace, the University’s highest honor award.  He joins St. George’s University’s Chancellor Charles Modica and Sir Kenneth Stuart, respectively, as the third recipient of this symbolic award. Sir Paul Scoon’s selection for this prestigious honor is based wholly on his distinguished career as a civil servant and a leader in the development of Grenada’s education system.

Dr. Macpherson reinforced Sir Paul’s role as both a fervent advocate for the University and the island of Grenada. He served six Heads of Government for Grenada, having been first appointed the second Governor General of Grenada in 1978 at the age of 43. Dr. Macpherson expressed, “We, and by we, I mean all of us who are fortunate to live and work in this beautiful and peaceful island of Grenada, were fortunate to have during this period (referring to a turbulent time in Grenada’s history) a charismatic Head of State who influenced policy through quiet diplomacy.”

Sir Paul’s friendship and support of St. George’s University dates back to its inception in 1976.  As Deputy Director of the Commonwealth Foundation based in London, he was the recipient of intense criticism for standing behind the academic foundation and reputation of St. George’s University’s School of Medicine (SGUSOM). In fact, in the second SGUSOM commencement address which he delivered in 1982, Sir Paul Scoon said: “The school (SGUSOM) is aimed at academic excellence and already has proved itself as an institution of enlightenment, liberty and learning and the faculty and students have proved wrong those carping critiques from far and near who felt that the school was not only doomed to failure but was also poised to create innumerable problems for the practice of medicine in the Caribbean and USA.” Dr. Macpherson, on behalf of the 8,000 St. George’s University physicians, veterinarians, Arts and Sciences, and Graduate Studies Graduates expressed sincere gratitude for Sir Paul’s “accurate and early prediction.”

The Order of the Mace was created in 2007, the 30th anniversary year of St. George’s University, to honor an individual who most embodied the University’s spirit and mission to help shape the future of humankind through local and global community efforts.

Sir Paul’s career displays a myriad of influential positions within the academic and political arena. He has served as Chief Education Officer, and later as Permanent Secretary in the Premier’s Office before attaining the post of Secretary of the Cabinet in the Grenada Civil Service. In 1973 Sir Paul was seconded to the post of Deputy Director of the Commonwealth Foundation in London. He left in 1978 to become the second Governor General of Grenada, remaining so until 1992, when he took on the role of Chairman of the Grenada Board of Tourism.

He also was chairman of the  Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation’s (WINDREF) Institutional Review Board (IRB).  Today Sir Paul serves as a member of the St. George’s University IRB. He was also a director on the Board of the Grenada Industrial Development Co-operation. He currently serves as Chairman of the St. John Council which oversees the local St. John Ambulance Association. In December 2001, Sir Paul was appointed a Knight of Grace of the most Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem.

Sir Paul Scoon was born on July 4, 1935, receiving his early education at St. John’s Anglican School and the Grenada Boys’ Secondary School, where he later taught and served as Master-in-charge of its 52 boarders. Sir Paul received a BA degree from London University and later attended the Institute of Education at Leeds University, and the University of Toronto where he gained the degree of Master of Education.

In 1984 Sir Paul was named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International.  He was honored by Her Majesty the Queen on three occasions: Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) 1970; Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George (GCMG) 1979; and Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) 1985.

Throughout his career Sir Paul has been very active in community affairs. He served on the Management Council of the Civil Service Association, on the Grenada Library Committee, on the Board of Governors of Grenada Teachers’ College, on the Governing Body of Grenada Boys’ Secondary School, on the Prisons Visiting Committee, and on the Grenada Board of Education. He was co-founder and President of the Secondary School Teachers’ Association (The Association of Masters and Mistresses). He was also a member of the Board of Governors of the Centre for International Briefing at Farnham Castle in Britain.

Sir Paul was married on June 27, 1970 to Mrs. Esmai McNeilly (nee Lumsden), now deceased. He has three step children.

Sir Dwight was educated at the University of the West Indies (UWI), where he obtained both a Bachelor of Science (BSc) and a Master of Science (MSc) in Economics. He served as a Junior Research Fellow at the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the UWI and then a Lecturer in Economics from 1974 to 1981.

Among his numerous achievements, Governor Venner was awarded Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1996 in St. Lucia and was recognized as a Distinguished Graduate of the University of the West Indies on its 50th Anniversary in July 1998. In June 2001 he was awarded Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines for services to the financial sector.

Sir Dwight is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network and a member of the Commission for Growth and Development, World Bank. He is also Chairman of the OECS Economic Union Committee.

Governor Venner is married to Lynda Arnolde Winville Venner nee St. Rose and they have seven children. His outside interests include reading, music, cricket, and jogging.