Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 1st 2015 Contents 18 UWI TODAY – SUNDAY 1ST FEBRUARY, 2015
JH: Dr Cateau, how long have you been with the
HC: About 20 years.
JH: And you have been deputy dean for quite
some time as well?
HC: I was deputy dean for four years and then I
was head of department for an additional four
JH: That’s a considerable amount of time. How
do you balance your academic work with all
of your administrative duties?
HC: It’s difficult. I think my academic work may
have suffered in some ways. I make sure
that at least every year I manage to publish
something, but in terms of larger projects it
has been difficult. You keep telling yourself
that you will get to it and it doesn’t happen.
It’s a delicate balance but I believe that as
lecturers we also need to contribute to our
institution in more than one way. It’s not just
about you and your research; it is also about
contributing to the unit. At certain times you
need to give precedence to one thing and at
other times to other things. I haven’t perfected
that balance but I’m still working on it.
JH: Why did you accept such a demanding
HC: I have been with this university for a long
time. I started in fact as a tutor, then went on
to research assistant, lecturer, senior lecturer,
deputy dean and then head of department. I
worked as residence manager for Milner Hall
for six years. I have literally grown up in this
as an undergraduate and graduate student.
I love this university. I love my Faculty. I
believe in what my Faculty does. I have been
part of the Faculty management team for
team. I worked closely with the previous two
deans. So when they came to me and asked if
I wanted the position and expressed support
for my deanship, it meant a lot to me that
they would see me in that light. I felt I had the
necessary administrative experience and the
support of a very powerful team. I believed
that together we would have what it takes to
take the Faculty through the next four years.
JH: You worked with Professor Aiyejina for
quite some time. What do you think his
legacy will be?
HC: With all the talk of mentorship we bandy
about now, I think we do so without truly
understanding what it means. When I look
back I have been well mentored. What made it
so good was that I had no idea that I had been
well mentored. I have been a lucky person
to be mentored throughout my career in
university without even realising it. It started
in the History Department through Professor
(Bridget) Brereton (Professor of History).
Professor Aiyejina is an excellent mentor. He
built a team which has really changed this
Faculty and the way we function. He knew
where we would be best positioned and left
our portfolios for us to handle. I have inherited
a dream team and he was the one who built
that team and prepared me for deanship even
when I didn’t realise that is what he was doing.
I think that is his most powerful legacy.
JH: And what is your vision for the Faculty?
HC: My vision is to change the perception of
what we do in the Humanities. We have to be
honest, I think few people are thrilled when
their son or daughter says “mommy I want
to do history.”We still want our children to
be doctors or lawyers. That is the only way
we see a meaningful contribution to our
society. That is as a consequence of people not
understanding what the Humanities are about.
They don’t understand how our Faculty has
expanded and the extent of the things you can
do with the humanities.
We need to rebrand ourselves. People think
that all historians do is memorise dates; not
understanding that we analyse society. I
want to change the perception of what we
do. I want people to understand what the
Humanities and Education are about. And to
understand that our societies’ concentrations
in the past have not made the world a better
place. I think our societies are in crisis and I
think we need to shift focus to what I call the
“human sciences”. And understand what is
required to create the meaningful changes
that this society needs. I think my Faculty has
to be at the centre of that shift in focus.
JH: What kind of resources do you think the
Faculty needs to make that vision a reality
(in a perfect world)? What would you like to
HC: Twenty more lecturers (laughter). I think two
things. We have done a lot but we have to be
better at sharing what we do. Part of it has to
be marketing and communications because
many people have an understanding about
the Humanities and Education from about
20 years ago and it is very limited. We need
some professional assistance in positioning
ourselves to the world outside. We are good at
what we do internally but that is not enough.
We need to get ourselves out there.
We also have to show the practical
applications of the Humanities and Education
education and social systems in society.
We have to focus more (we do it somewhat
already) on applied research, because people
need to see how we can affect their lives.
We can have all the books and theories
“I love this university. I love my faculty. I believe in what my faculty does,” says Dr Heather Cateau, Senior Lecturer in The UWI St. Augustine’s
History Department and recently appointed Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Education (FHE). In July of 2014 it was announced that Dr
Cateau had been made Dean following the retirement of Professor Funso Aiyejina. Joel Henry sat down with the new Dean of FHE to discuss
growing up in the UWI, the faculty’s well-developed team and the pressing need for the humanities to prove their relevance.
Dean of a Dream Team
Heather Cateau, New Head of Humanities, says Human Sciences are the New Building Blocks
SUNDAY 1ST FEBRUARY, 2015 – UWI TODAY 7
At the end of November 2014, the Alma Jordan Library of
The UWI hosted a small ceremony to mark the handover of
the Ian McDonald papers. The simplicity of the event could
not mask the enormity of the occasion, or the significance
of this addition to the university’s growing literary and
Within this diverse range of material which was donated
by McDonald, is work from almost 50 years covering his
research, his publications and his professional life. The
papers highlight his literary activities, sport writing and
his involvement in the Guyanese sugar industry; including
correspondence, manuscripts of his work and those of
other Caribbean writers, critical works, and files relevant
to various aspects of his research.
The ceremony was attended by Ian McDonald, his wife,
Mary and one of his sons, Darren, as well as some of his
friends from Guyana.
“I can hardly find words to express my thanks to the
University for deciding to establish the Ian McDonald
Collection in the Special Collections division of the Library,”
he said when he took to the podium.
“ This is a great honour and I am truly grateful to
those who had the idea and those who approved it. It is
a remarkable distinction to have one’s papers considered
important and valuable enough to deserve a Collection at
The University of the West Indies and I am, to tell the truth,
slightly overwhelmed by this accolade.
“I did not attend UWI as an undergraduate yet two
great honours paid to me have come from this University.
In 1997 I was awarded the Honorary Doctorate of Letters
and now there is this honour. I consider these distinctions,
very simply, as outstanding in my life as a Trinidadian and
“Perhaps I should say here that this great honour is also
a great relief for my wife, Mary, who has watched old files and
papers spread from room to room in our home with great
understanding but I think with increasing dismay. I’m afraid
that the staff here is going to have a big job sorting the gold
dust from the dross–though I do remember a wonderful
archivist friend of mine once telling me ‘Ian, let enough time
pass and everything becomes of historical interest!’”
After the head of the West Indiana and Special
Collections, Dr Glenroy Taitt, talked about the process of
acquiring the collection, Dr Kusha Haraksingh, former Dean
of the Faculty of Law, spoke of McDonald’s work at both
the Guyana Sugar Corporation and the Sugar Association
of the Caribbean, enriching his account with personal
recollections and observations made over their years of
friendship. Ms Vanda Radzik, who was one of the guests
coming directly from Guyana, spoke eloquently about his
work and life in Guyana. Together, they are hoping to revive
the literary journal which he helped to found, Kyk-Over-Al
Professor Kenneth Ramchand, the feature speaker,
also spoke of the value of McDonald’s work to the literary
landscape of the region and gave an assessment of the kind of
material contained within the donated collection. Chairing
the proceedings was Dr Karen Eccles, who had travelled to
Guyana to help with the logistics involved in getting the
collection to St. Augustine. Her account of that trip gave
a sense of how much material there was, and what a truly
regional figure McDonald is.
His novel, The Humming-Bird Tree, which was first
published in 1969, and which has been made into a film,
has long been a part of the literature syllabus throughout
the region. His poetry, his Ian on Sunday news column
in the Starbroek News of Guyana, his sports writing and
his stewardship of the literary journal Kyk-Over-Al, have
all made the McDonald name a familiar one within the
region. He was one of the dedicated trio to have produced
what is commonly known as the Patterson Report, a
comprehensive analysis of the state of West Indies cricket
and recommendations for its future, which was presented
in 2007. The other two members were the former Jamaican
Prime Minister, PJ Patterson, and the former UWI Vice-
Chancellor, Sir Alister McIntyre. McDonald’s writings on
cricket have been universally regarded as among the finest
from the region.
Some of Ian McDonald’s work on display at the handover ceremony.
The Humming Bird Alights
Ian McDonald collection comes to rest
It was clear that he was very moved by the ceremony,
and when he spoke, he added much to his prepared text
to reflect what had just been said. As he mentioned his
appreciation that his work was being housed by the Alma
Jordan Library, he gave the university further cause to be
grateful as he donated over 100 of his unpublished poems
to the library at the function.
McDonald recounted how he felt bound to The
UWI, revealing that he had lived on Carmody Road, in
St. Augustine and reminiscing about his boyhood on the
grounds of the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture. The
current site of his childhood home is a vacant lot adjacent
to the UWI.
“ This occasion is of special significance to me because I
was born and brought up here in St. Augustine. I was born
in Carmody Road not many yards from here. As a child
I knew every corner of the grounds of the old Imperial
College of Tropical Agriculture. As a boy this ground was
where I played and the surrounding countryside was where
I wandered with my friends. Where the University has
now risen I remember doing so many things that became
important in my life later on. I watched from under the
College trees my first games of cricket. I played some
of my first games of tennis on the College courts. And I
remember so well sitting on the steps of what I believe is
now the Administration building reading Derek Walcott’s
first book of poems, a very slim volume called “25 Poems”
and, reading on those steps, I remember beginning to
hunger to write.
“So my memories flood back as I return here. I recall
those times and think what a marvel it is that all this time
nearly 70 years of it – has brought me back here for this
special event in my life. What a wonderful thing to have
happened!” he said emotionally.
This collection joins those owned by the UWI St.
Augustine Campus including: Arthur Roberts (playwright
1930s), CLR James, Dennis Mahabir, Derek Walcott, Earl
Lovelace, Eric Roach, Isaiah Boodhoo, Michael Anthony,
Monique Roffey, and Sam Selvon. Persons interested in
consulting any of these collections can contact the West
Indiana and Special Collections department at wimail@sta.
uwi.edu. (Vaneisa Baksh)
Librarian, Elmelinda Lara, with Ian McDonald and his wife, Mary, at the handover ceremony on November 27, 2014.
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