CaribWorldNews, NEW YORK, NY, Thurs. Feb. 4, 2010: Condolences have begun pouring in for Professor Rex. Nettleford, former vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies, who passed away following a heart attack on Feb. 2nd.
John Lynch, chairman of the Jamaica Tourist Board said the tourism community joins the Caribbean in mourning the loss of such an `extraordinary person.`
` His many contributions to Jamaica and the world as Vice-Chancellor Emeritus of The University of The West Indies and founder of the National Dance Theatre Company will continue to enrich our lives,` said Lynch.
He also remembered Nettleford as `an exemplary man of wisdom and vision who inspired cultural pride and instilled a sense of self-worth in the minds of Jamaicans, in a quest to obliterate the remnants of colonialism.`
`He was rightly hailed as the quintessential Caribbean man as he used his gift of dance, eloquence as an orator and writer and position as a professor and Caribbean intellectual to stimulate our minds and uplift our hearts,` added the JTB chair. `Here in Jamaica, we will always feel gratitude to Professor Rex Nettleford for his commitment and dedication to the cultural development of Jamaica. `
In South Florida, Jamaica`s Consul General, Sandra A. Grant Griffiths, shared in the grief and shock experienced by the entire Jamaican family and particularly those community in Florida and the Southern United States who were directly touched by the contribution and reach of the esteemed professor.
We all mourn his loss, and condole with his family, the University of the West Indies community and the members of his beloved National Dance Theatre Company which he led for half a century,` said CG Grant Griffiths in a statement. `He will be deeply missed.`
Jamaica Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, said: `Jamaica and the entire world have lost an intellectual and creative genius, a man whose contribution to shaping and projecting the cultural landscape of the entire Caribbean region is unquestionable.`
And novelist George Lamming and diplomat Shridath Ramphal called Nettleford`s passing a `great loss.`
The University of the West Indies for its part said it is `devastated by the loss of the colossal Caribbean cultural icon.`
Save for the three years he spent as a Rhodes Scholar at Oriel College, Oxford, Nettleford spent his entire adult life at and for The University of the West Indies, beginning in 1953 when he entered the then University College of the West Indies to read for a degree in history.
He returned immediately after completing the MPhil in Political Science at Oxford and, at the prompting of UWI Founding Father, Sir Philip Sherlock, took up the challenge of widening the reach of the still fledgling institution through the Department of Extra-Mural Studies, which took him to Trinidad and Guyana as Staff Tutor for the Eastern Caribbean.
He served in this way five Vice Chancellors – Sir Arthur Lewis; his mentor, Sir Philip Sherlock; Sir Roy Marshall, Mr A.Z. Preston and Sir Alister McIntyre – until he himself took up the mantle in 1998. Even after his official `retirement` in 2004 Professor Nettleford continued to serve in the capacity of Vice-Chancellor Emeritus, Professor of Cultural Studies and unofficial advisor to current Vice-Chancellor, Professor E. Nigel Harris.
Although Nettleford is perhaps best known for his genius as a dancer and choreographer – he was co-founder and Artistic Director of the acclaimed National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica – it is as an intellectual and academic leader that the University has known him. He has been conferred with numerous academic honours from many universities and received from the Government of Jamaica the highest national award which a civilian can earn – The Order of Merit. He is recipient of the Order of the Caribbean Community (OCC); the Gold Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica, of which he was also named Honorary Fellow; The Chancellor`s Medal (UWI); the UWI Alumni Pelican Award; The Living Legend Award from the Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, USA and The Zora Neal Hurston/Paul Robeson Award from the National Council for Black Studies, among many others.
The Rhodes Trust, in celebration of its Centenary in 2004, established the Rex Nettleford Prize in Cultural Studies, tenable at The University of the West Indies – a fitting and lasting accolade which will ensure that his name and work will live on in perpetuity.
Nettleford died at 8 P.M. Tuesday night in the George Washington Hospital in Washington . He was 76, just a day short of his 77th birthday.
Nettleford suffered a heart attack last Wednesday while on a fundraising trip for the University of the West Indies (UWI). He reportedly never regained consciousness. Nettleford fell in his hotel room bathroom after suffering the heart attack and was found later after colleagues did not see him return.