Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 10th 2017 Contents 8 UWI TODAY -- SUNDAY 10 SEPTEMBER, 2017
"I never attended university," he says.
It is a statement that might alarm those academics
who have grumbled about the selection of Robert
Bermudez as sixth Chancellor of e UWI as he is not
one of them.
It is true that he is not an academic, but spend a little
time in conversation with this Chancellor and you will
conclude that he is an intellectual.
People o en use the words 'academic' and 'intellectual'
interchangeably, but they are not quite the same.
e Oxford Dictionary de nes an academic as "a
teacher or scholar in a university or college," and one of
its descriptions (I mischievously add) is: "not related to a
real or practical situation and therefore irrelevant."
It also de nes the intellect as the "faculty of reasoning
and understanding objectively," and an intellectual as "a
person with a highly developed intellect." It follows that
an academic may not necessarily be an intellectual, just
as an intellectual may not be an academic.
Either way, Mr. Bermudez, a businessman, has
entered the UWI world of academia at a time when it has
declared its intention to think di erently, and his selection
as Chancellor is an indication of where it wants to go.
He is aware of the consternation, but is not fazed.
"People equate education with attending a university,"
he says, acknowledging the value of mass education, "but
some people are privileged to get educated one-on-one
by people who are experts in the eld, and that was the
opportunity I had."
He credits his achievements to the lessons he had
from members of the business community.
" ose guys taught me stu , and by the time Tony
Sabga was nished with me, I always said I had a PhD
because he was the best that I ever had the good fortune
He says those periods of mentorship provided him
with multiple perspectives and that "gave me a huge
advantage." He points out that the support of sta , "who
come out to work every day and do extraordinary things,"
was an important part of the Bermudez success story.
He refers to the concept of apprenticeship, which he
says is part of the Costa Rican culture, so that people say
"I was made by," to indicate who had been their mentor. It
had seemed an odd segue into the Cost Rican university
system, but later, I realized he would have been fairly
familiar with the country because more than a decade
ago, he started the company, Alimentos Bermudez S.A.,
which is based there. It explains why he favours their
delicious co ee.
While Chancellor Bermudez expressed many views
on e UWI's culture and where he thinks the institution
should go, he is actually very reticent about his personal
side. He doesn't talk about himself, nor does he o er
details on his range of business relationships. He has never
"I am a private person," he says repeatedly, and it took
some doing for him to be persuaded that people should
know something about the man who would be Chancellor.
So, who is Robert Bermudez?
He is the son of Margot and Alfredo Bermudez;
delivered by a midwife at a maternity house on Dere Street
in Port of Spain on April 21, 1953. His family lived in St.
Ann's then, but he has spent most of his years living in
and around Port of Spain.
" e reality is that the University i
there are business aspects to the Un
business that could be useful for t
University cannot be approached a
to make a pro t, it is he
"All my life, even to this day, I can hear the Queen's
Royal College bells ringing," he says. "So I think I've spent
most of my life within earshot of that."
A er attending the primary school run by a "lady
named Mrs. Bodkins on Oxford Street," he went to St.
Mary's College, where they also had a prep school.
He insists he was a terrible, hard-headed student. (I
get the impression that he was probably another bright,
bored child a icted by an education system that had not
yet learned how to teach them.)
"I was not a good student. I did not enjoy my school
years. I didn't enjoy the academic part of it. I sure enjoyed
being at St. Mary's. It was fun. You had lots of friends. You
had a lot of things to do."
He said he played sports but was "useless."
"I was not a sportsman of any quality. I played cricket,
terribly. I played tennis; something I thoroughly enjoyed. I
played a lot of tennis in my life. I played it poorly, but I had
a lot of fun," he says laughingly. "But the academic part...
my whole ambition in life was not to come last, because
my mother quarreled so much. I kept my mother as quiet
as possible by staying away from last place."
His mother was very strict, he says, a disciplinarian,
who kept an eagle eye on his hard-headedness. His only
brother, Bernardo, is nine years older, "so e ectively, we
were two only children," and it meant he was o en caught
in his mother's crosshairs.
At 16, a er St. Mary's College, he was sent to St.
George's College in Surrey, England, a boarding school
founded in 1869 by a Belgium Catholic order of priests
called the Josephites. He does not talk about that period;
but in 1973, he returned to Trinidad and began working
at the Bermudez Biscuit Company.
The company had been started by Venezuelan
brothers, Jose Rafael and Jose Angel nearly a century
ago, opposite St. Mary's College on Park Street. His
father, Alfredo, along with his brother joined their uncle,
Jose Rafael, in making the salt biscuits (known as water
crackers), that would become the famous Crix brand.
e building burned in the 1950s and this was when
the company moved to Mt Lambert where it has grown
He started o as a route supervisor, visiting customers
in his assigned sector to ensure they were being serviced
and eventually learning his way around the country.
" ere is no place in Trinidad that I do not know," he says.
"I cannot get lost anywhere because our customers are
everywhere. As far as we are concerned, once you open
your door to do business, we will come and supply you.
It is part of the values of our business."
He did a bit of everything in those days, learning
the business thoroughly (he particularly likes the
manufacturing process) and in 1982, when his father died,
he assumed full responsibility for the business.
e Bermudez name was already in every household
locally; but it wasn't so much what he got, as what he made
of it. In no time it had gone international: its website says
the Group has "more than 3000 employees spread across
e Group comprises Kiss Baking Company, Jamaica
Biscuit Company Limited, Holiday Snacks Limited,
West India Biscuit Company Limited, Bermudez Biscuit
Company and Alimentos Bermudez S.A. These six
companies are located in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica,
Barbados and Costa Rica, but their distribution is regional
and includes the USA, Canada and the UK.
In the Seaso
points to UWI's
Robert Bermudez will be o cially installed as Chance
at the UWI St. Augustine Campus on S
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