By Dr. DHANPAUL NARINE
The Alumni and Friends of the University of Guyana (AFOUG) held its second Gala at Antuns in Queens Village, last weekend. It was an impressive affair. The turnout was great, the program reflected the dignity of the occasion and the entertainment went late into the evening. There were many highlights to embrace but the address of Vice-Chancellor Ivelaw Griffith was the most memorable.
The members of AFOUG worked hard for many weeks to put the event together. They found the time, despite their busy schedules, to conference each other, publish a magazine, and to put the final touches to an event that will be long remembered. The members of the Board comprise Allison Skeete-Hadaway, President, Leslie Stewart, First Vice-President, Philip Smith, Second Vice-President, Terrence Blackman, Secretary, Karen Wharton, Assistant Secretary, Rosalind October-Edun, Treasurer, Dhanpaul Narine, Public Relations Officer, Frank A. Denbow, Parliamentarian, Kishore Seunarine, Executive Advisory Member, and Candace Cummings, Executive Advisory Member.
President Allison Skeete-Hadaway said that AFOUG is an accredited non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing learning opportunities for students and faculty who wish to support the rebuilding of education in Guyana. She pointed out that the rebuilding will ‘be devoid of racial or political bias.’ The Vice-Chancellor, she added, is a proud graduate of the University of Guyana (UG) who brings to the University more than 30 years of dedicated commitment to education.
It is fitting that messages were given from other distinguished personalities that have a direct connection with the local university. Guyana’s Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Riyad Insanally, was a former teacher at UG. He said that UG is the leading tertiary institution in Guyana, and that under the Vice Chancellor’s leadership, the university is making an invaluable contribution to Guyana and the region.
Guyana’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Rudolph M. Ten-Pow is a Class of 75 UG graduate. He said that UG needs the support of the thousands of alumni to help in its development. He urged them to get engaged in the rebuilding effort.
Ms. Barbara Atherly is Guyana’s Consul General to New York. She too was associated with UG; in her message she congratulated the Vice-Chancellor and AFOUG for the work they are doing to empower ‘our youths and leaders of tomorrow.’ There was also a message from Roxanne J. Persaud of the New York Senate. She said that AFOUG’s ‘professional development and enthusiastic commitment in providing valuable assistance to the citizens of New York State, and beyond, are noteworthy.’
The program at the Gala was outstanding. Kishore Suenarine proved to be the perfect MC for the occasion with his wit and wisdom. The opening prayer was given by Dhanpaul Narine, while Allison Skeete-Hadaway welcomed the guests. Shivani Persaud read a poem ‘Echo’ that was inspired by Kishore’s documentary ‘Echos from the Plantation.’
Vice-Chancellor Ivelaw Griffith, and his wife Francille, were applauded by the gathering. Everyone realized that Francille is the bedrock on which the Vice-Chancellor stands and is grateful for her support. The Vice-Chancellor said that he was grateful for the contribution of the diaspora in the rebuilding of UG. He thanked AFOUG for its hard work and outlined the many achievements of UG and its expansion program. According to Vice-Chancellor Griffith, ‘alumni engagement entails reaching out to UG graduates within and outside of Guyana, celebrating their accomplishments, and inviting them to aid the continued pursuit of our mission and goals.’
There is no question that since Vice-Chancellor Griffith took over the reins at UG the institution has made tremendous progress. Under his leadership, UG secured the reaccreditation of the School of Medicine, boosted Wi-Fi access at Turkeyen, started the Tain and Turkeyen Talks, published the Renaissance Newsletter, restored the Walter Rodney Chair, began work on a new student’s complex, hosted the first Diaspora Engagement Conference, inaugurated a Distinguished Lecture Series to celebrate the works of Professor Clive Thomas, Professor Sister Noel Menezes, and Dr. Ulric Trotz, and hosted successful inaugural student research conferences, among others.
In 2018, UG observed the birth anniversary of former President Dr. Chedddi Jagan, and signed an academic agreement Power, Producers and Distribution Inc. to enhance and maintain the quality assurance of UG students. The Berbice Director, Professor Gomathinayagam Subramanian spoke on the uses of ‘Soil Micro-Organisms’ and the best practices that are needed to boost production in Guyana.
Vice-Chancellor Griffith reinforced the importance of agriculture in Guyana last weekend. He said that while Guyana welcomes oil and gas it should not neglect its agricultural base. The prospects for UG are exciting.
In October 2018, the university will publish a book on the diaspora conference that was held in Guyana last year. This will be a historic publication as some of the proposals will act as a guide for policy formulation and implementation in the diaspora, and beyond.
There is no doubt that AFOUG’s evening was a tremendous success. We salute President Allison Skeete-Hadaway who braved personal challenges to help organize a wonderful event. Her husband Michael also donated his time as the cameraman for which the organization is grateful. The members of AFOUG should take a bow for working as a team and pulling off another successful evening. But there is more work to be done.
The next event for AFOUG is on Sunday October 21, 2018 when Kishore Seunarine’s ‘Echos from the Plantation’ will be shown at D’Lorice Banquet Hall at 665 Styvesant Avenue, Irvington NJ 07111. It starts at 4pm, please call 1718 848 8831 for further information.