University of Guyana awards honorary degrees

Newly-minted Doctors of Letters Eddy Grant and Yesu Persaud congratulate each other (Photo by Terrence Thompson)

The University of Guyana (UG) yesterday inaugurated its honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) degree with awards to four Guyanese who have made their mark in the fields of music, business, philanthropy and Indigenous peoples’ rights.

World renowned musician Edmond (Eddy) Grant was the first to be conferred with the Degree by Chancellor Nigel Harris at the first of three convocation ceremonies that were held at the National Cultural Centre.

In his citation for Grant’s Degree, UG Registrar Nigel Gravesande stressed that the musician was a rare combination of artist extraordinaire and courageous entrepreneur, who took risks in the field of popular music. He noted that Grant is one of the few in the field who owns every piece of work he has written or performed both as a member of his group, The Equals, and as a solo artist.

Grant, in his speech, noted that the conferral of the degree fulfils a dream his father had for him. “I was 50 and my father was telling me boy you gonna be a doctor… you can’t wine forever,” he told the audience. He further stressed that the University must make a space for those not gifted with “traditional” intelligence but who still have the ability to become master craftsmen.

“I learnt from real people, old men who were carpenters and masons,” he noted, while he bemoaned the apparent disappearance of “apprenticeships” as a means of development and passing on skills in Guyanese society.

Also receiving an award at the ceremony was Yesu Persaud, who was recognised for his iconic leadership in business and banking.

Gravesande noted that over his decades-long career, Persaud has been influential in shaping the business landscape of Guyana.

Recipient Jairaj (Jay) Sobhraj was acknowledged for excellence in entrepreneurship and philanthropy during the second ceremony.

The Jay and Sylvia Sobhraj Foundation committed earlier this year to refurbish and convert the building that formerly housed the Spicy Dish restaurant at UG into a state-of-the-art behavioural studies and research centre at a cost of US$400,000 or some $80 million.

The final honorary degree was issued at the 5 pm ceremony to Indigenous peoples’ rights activist Laura George.

George was acknowledged for her outstanding work in community development and advocacy.

In accepting the degree, she noted that she has done so on the condition that the university commits to strategically and significantly undertake its role as the independent academia to produce correct information on the history of Guyana.

“Our citizens need to know the truth… starting, for example, [with] who really discovered whom,” she stressed, before adding that until the lion learns to write, every story will glorify the hunter.

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