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JIS News

Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor E. Nigel Harris, has said that the passing of cultural icon and educator, Professor the Hon Rex Nettleford O.M., is a “colossal” loss for the university community, and the region as a whole.
Professor Nettleford, who was Vice Chancellor Emeritus of the UWI, Mona and founder of the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), died on February 2 at the George Washington Hospital in Washington D.C. in the United States, hours before he turned 77.
Professor Nettleford, who suffered a massive heart attack a week ago, was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit and placed on life support. He never regained consciousness and finally passed on at 8:00 pm on Tuesday (February 2).
Speaking to JIS NEWS Wednesday (February 3), during a press briefing at the Vice Chancellor’s Office at the UWI, Mona, Professor Harris said it was “undeniably” a sad time for the UWI, Jamaica, the region and the world.
“We have lost the most accomplished and celebrated scholar that the Caribbean has produced. Professor the Hon. Rex Nettleford has been a colossus in terms of the contributions he has made. His scholarship has been colossal, as a teacher he was well loved and here too he was colossal,” he said.
Professor Harris said Professor Nettleford’s contributions as a cultural figure, to dance and other creative fields in the arts and humanities were also invaluable.
The Vice Chancellor also said that what was remarkable about Professor Nettleford, was that while he was all of these things, “it was the nobility of the human spirit that he evidenced most clearly.”
He described Professor Nettleford as the “quintessential Caribbean man”. He said it was significant to note that his greatness was not achieved in some foreign land, but within the context of the Caribbean.
Ralston Milton ‘Rex’ Nettleford was born on February 3, 1933 in Falmouth, Trelawny. He was a Professor of Extra Mural Studies at the UWI and also headed the Trade Union Education Institution.
As a Rhodes Scholar, he studied at Oxford University and has authored a number of books, among them “Mirror Mirror”, “Manley and the New Jamaica”, “The African Connexion, In Our Heritage” and “Caribbean Cultural Identity: the case of Jamaica”.
He was known for his involvement in the arts as his vast contribution to academia. He was also deemed as the driving force behind the internationally acclaimed NDTC. Through his guidance and influence, the group won numerous awards and is regarded as one of the best dance ensembles in the world.
He was cultural adviser to the Prime Minister, member of the Inter-American Committee on Culture, founding Governor of the Canada-based International Development Research Centre, and has acted as expert/consultant to the Government of Ghana, FESTAC, CARIFESTA and UNESCO.
He is the recipient of Jamaica’s third highest honour, the Order of Merit, as well as the gold Musgrave Medal, the Pelican Award from the UWI Guild of Graduates, an honorary doctor of Humane letters from the University of Hartford and the Living Legend Award from the Atlantic Black Arts Festival.