On behalf of the now dormant University of Guyana Guild of Graduates, Ontario, please allow me to express deepest sympathy to the wife, children and relatives of Dr Martin Boodhoo, one of the most outstanding graduates of the University of Guyana (UG), who passed away on Christmas Day (December 25, 2017) in Manchester, England. Like many of us in the Ontario Guild, Dr Boodhoo was a member of the first batch of students of the UG when it was established in 1963.
Dr Boodhoo was a self-made person. He was born on June 20, 1930 of humble working class parentage at Uitvlugt Estate, West Coast Demerara. His mother was a Guyanese who died when he was six years old and his father was an indentured Indian immigrant who passed away when he was eighteen. After completing primary school in 1945 and with no opportunity to attend secondary school, he entered into a seven-year apprenticeship programme to become a Sicknurse & Dispenser, the current equivalent of a paramedic. During this period, he also attended evening classes at the Uitvlugt Under-Privileged School run by Mr Gangaram Dwarka, passing the Junior Cambridge in 1947 and the London Matriculation in 1950. In 1952, he qualified as a Certified Sicknurse & Dispenser, placing second on the pass list and continued working as a Sicknurse and Dispenser at the Leonora Sugar Estate Hospital and Dispensary.
As a result of his volunteer work, in October 1952, he was awarded a one-year fellowship to study Industrial Welfare and Community Development in England. Upon his return to Guyana, he was employed by Bookers Sugar Estates as an Industrial and Social Welfare Officer, a position he held until March 1960 when he joined the Public Service as a Community Development Officer. In the meantime, he continued his education and, through correspondence courses, passed the examinations to qualify as an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries (ACIS) of the United Kingdom.
In January 1962, he accepted an appointment as Housing Officer, Administration, with the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Fund and was involved in the latter phase of the re-housing of sugar workers from the communal ‘logies’ to self-contained, detached houses on individual lots in the ‘Extra-Nuclear Housing Schemes’. From October 1963 to June 1967, while working full-time as Housing Officer, he studied as an evening student at the then newly established UG and was elected President of the UG Students’ Society for two consecutive terms, 1965-66 and 1966-67. He completed his studies in four years and was a member of the first graduating class of the university. In October 1967, he left Guyana for the United Kingdom to pursue postgraduate studies. He completed a Master’s degree at the University of Essex in 1968 and a PhD at the University of Leeds in 1971, becoming one of the first UG graduates to obtain a PhD. In 1969, his PhD thesis supervisor wrote “Mr Boodhoo is one of the most able candidates for a doctorate I have ever supervised”.
In 2006, in reflecting on his career during the period 1957-67, Dr Boodhoo wrote “The major lesson I would draw from this period is that poverty did not discourage me in making determined and consistent efforts to improve my station in life; and in the process, I believe I was able to assist others to enhance their personal and community welfare”.
After obtaining his doctorate, Dr Boodhoo served as Lecturer at the University of Leeds and then at the University of Manchester where he was Director of the Public Enterprise Management Programme in 1979 when he left to pursue a career with the United Nations. For the next twelve years, he provided advice and coordinated projects in Malaysia, Eastern and Southern Africa, and the Caribbean.
In 1992, Dr Boodhoo returned to his native Guyana and commenced working as a consultant in the private and the public sectors, also serving as a facilitator to the international team of observers who monitored the 1997 general elections. In 1993, he was tasked with setting up the Privatization Unit for the Government of Guyana with technical assistance from the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank and served as Head of the Unit until 1996. There, with collaboration from the World Bank, he formulated policies and guidelines for the privatization of a number of government-held business entities. Adding to his span of responsibilities, in 1995 he was appointed Pro-Chancellor of the UG, becoming the first UG graduate to hold this position. In addition to his professional responsibilities in Guyana, he continued his association with community organizations such as Rotary, Scouting, the Heritage Society, the United Nations Association of Guyana, and the Olympic Association of Guyana.
In 2006, Dr Boodhoo resumed residence in the UK where he worked as a “freelance” consultant in Economic Development and Management to public, private, international and non-governmental organizations. Also, he travelled to India where he researched his Indian heritage and ancestral history in Agra, UP, home of the world-famous Taj Mahal. He leaves to mourn, his wife Chandra Kumari, daughter of his former boss, Mr Deodat Persaud who was Chief Sicknurse and Dispenser of Leonora Sugar Estate Hospital, his two sons (Hari Devanand and Navindra Parmanand), two daughters (Chitra Nalini and Radha Serojini), and a nephew (Krishnadat Persaud), considered as a son.