By all accounts, last week’s Queen’s College Old Students’ Association (QCOSA) reunion, marking the 170th anniversary of the founding of QC, was a great success, with old boys and, significantly, an impressive number of old girls, gathering to relive the carefree days of their youth and to celebrate the institution that laid the foundation for their many and varied achievements.
Predictably, the reunion was a wonderful occasion for wallowing in nostalgia, particularly for those alumni who had travelled from overseas and who enjoyed several opportunities not only to revisit their beloved school and rekindle old friendships but also, for many, to reacquaint themselves with contemporary Guyana, much changed from the time when they emigrated.
Of course, as with the last such reunion in Guyana, five years ago, there was also a serious side to the proceedings, as discussions were held about fundraising and other forms of support to the school. Most notably, following a musical trip down memory lane at a concert at the Theatre Guild last Friday, in celebration of QC’s contribution to Guyanese musical life over the past 170 years, a new initiative was announced – the establishment of a Queen’s College Centre for Excellence for the Arts. In addition, in anticipation of next year’s 40th anniversary of co-education at QC – which has so profoundly changed the school – an alumnae group, the Women of Queen’s College, arranged an afternoon of mentoring workshops with current students to share their expertise and experience. Kudos all round.
One particular bitter sweet observation, however, would have to centre on what Guyana has lost over the years. The returning old students – amongst them, academics, doctors, engineers, lawyers, IT experts, businesspeople and so forth – have all done well enough, some exceptionally well, in their new lives in their adopted homes. And they were only a representative fraction of their respective generations at QC and but a microcosm of the hundreds of thousands this country has lost over the past 60 years. It is a moot point whether they would have been as successful in their endeavours had they remained in this country with its relative paucity of opportunities. But who is to say that, had they stayed, they, along with all the others who have left for greener pastures, would not have contributed to building a better, more prosperous nation with ample opportunity for all?
At least, through their alumni chapters in key centres of the ‘Guyaspora,’ like many other overseas-based alumni associations and community support groups, these QC old students are striving to live up to their school’s Latin motto, Fideles Ubique Utiles – ‘Loyal and Useful Everywhere.’ By their efforts, they are giving something back to their alma mater, to the current generation of QC students and, by extension, to Guyana itself.
It is therefore with considerable irony that it was during the reunion week that the infamous tape of the foul-mouthed rant by one alleged to be a QC old boy should have surfaced. One gathers that there was near unanimous disgust with the vulgar and repugnant sentiments expressed in the recorded conversation and with the manner in which they were voiced. Of particular consternation was the crass statement, “Is Queen’s College people does run this country.” Some might say that, the way things are going, this is not necessarily cause for pride.
Queen’s College old students have every right to be proud of their school. On the evidence of last week’s reunion, the vast majority would appear to be genuinely grateful for the education they received and the part it played in their intellectual, spiritual and professional formation. More importantly, most seem to understand – to adapt Voltaire’s famous adage, ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ – that with great privilege comes great responsibility. And some humility would not go amiss either, as most seem to understand also. We are sure that true Queen’s College people are well aware of this and of the fact that by their words and actions will they be really known and judged.