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The Life and Times of Professor George Maxwell Richards

The Life and Times of Professor George Maxwell Richards

Today, we pay tribute to the late Professor George Maxwell Richards, former President of Trinidad and Tobago, and all round patriot.

Professor Richards passed away on January 8th 2018 at the age of 86, following a heart attack.

Since then, tributes have poured in, many of which give some previously unknown insight into his character.

For example, many people may or may not know that he remains the only President without a background in law.

He was a chemical engineer by trade, and worked for Shell Trinidad from 1957 to 1965.

From there, he joined the Department of Chemical Engineering at UWI St Augustine, making significant contributions, most notably helping to ensure that the university’s programmes were internationally accredited.

He attained the post of Professor in 1970.

From 1980 he served as Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Principal of the University, and then became principal, serving from 1985 to 1996.

Many may already know that Professor Richards was founder of the UWI Fete, which 28 years later, continues to raise money for thousands of students in need.

This simple deed may have arisen out of challenges faced by him during his tenure as Campus Principal.

In 1988, the government slashed the university’s budget by 30% and in order to cope with the measure, tuition fees were raised substantially.

It was a harsh measure, but Professor Richards is credited with keeping the University afloat during that difficult time.

He served as President of T&T from 2003 to 2013, and although the position largely ceremonial, he was known for being extremely outspoken on issues such as crime.

It was not all smooth though: in 2009, there were calls for him to resign after members of the Integrity Commission all stepped down for various reasons within a week of being sworn in.

He persevered though, and remained well liked until his death.

In the Parliament on Friday, there were official tributes from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Dr Rowley first reflected on his dynamic character: a man who had achieved so much, but loved being an average citizen.

Audio: Rowley Tribute 14 01 18

Mrs Persad-Bissessar meanwhile recounted her first time meeting Professor Richards.

Audio: KPB Tribute 14 01 18

She also pointed out that Professor Richards was in support of a female president.

Audio: KPB Female President 14 01 18

RIP Professor George Maxwell Richards.

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January 14th, 2018

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