Mr Kenneth Evan Duke Potter, Chief Hydrometeorological Officer (Director) of the Guyana Hydrometeorological Service from 1965 to 1975, and Permanent Representative of Guyana with WMO from 1967 to 1979, died at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, Australia recently, a few days before his 73rd birthday.
Kenneth Potter — Ken to his friends — was born in Georgetown, Guyana (then British Guiana) on June 14, 1935. He received his secondary school education at Queen’s College, the prestigious boys’ school in Georgetown, then obtained a Guyana scholarship to study civil engineering.
He obtained a BSc degree at Aberdeen University in Scotland in 1958, and a postgraduate Diploma in Engineering Hydrology from the Imperial College, London University, 1963.
Ken began his professional career in the Drainage and Irrigation Department, and held various engineering posts between 1958 and 1965.
When the Guyana Hydrometeorological Service was created in 1965 as a centralised division of the Ministry of Works and Hydraulics, Ken was appointed as the first Chief Hydrometeorological Officer; a position he held for nine years. Under his direction, the Hydromet Service developed rapidly into a well coordinated and dynamic entity with a solid core of professional personnel.
Early in his Hydromet mandate, Ken Potter recognized that an important limitation to water resources assessment and development in Guyana and throughout the English-speaking Caribbean was the inadequacy of trained hydrological technicians. He accordingly sought the establishment of institutionalized training similar to that being done for meteorological technicians in the region.
He became the driving force behind the creation of the Caribbean Operational Hydrology Institute (COHI) set up in 1980 with WMO sponsorship alongside the Caribbean Meteorological Institute (CMI) in Barbados.
In 1968, Ken met Lesley, a young Australian graduate student in geography, who was undertaking fieldwork in Guyana as part of her PhD programme at McGill University in Montreal. In 1971, Lesley returned to take up a position at the University of Guyana. She and Ken were married in Georgetown in 1973.
In 1975 Ken was appointed Chief Works Officer in the Ministry of Works and Transport, with the responsibility for coordinating and overseeing the work of the eight technical divisions.
In 1980, Ken served as a WMO consultant to kick-start the operational phase of the COHI project. Several years later, COHI was amalgamated with CMI to create the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology as it is today.
Ken had more than a professional interest in water; he was very enthusiastic about water sports, and none moreso than rowing, a passion for which he seemed to have acquired during his student days in the UK. He was founder-member of the Georgetown Rowing Club. He enjoyed sailing on the Demerara River, and occasionally ventured out to the Caribbean Sea and around the islands.
In 1980, Ken resigned his post in Guyana and settled with Lesley in Adelaide, Australia. From 1981 to 1992, he worked with a consulting firm on a broad range of hydrology and hydraulic engineering projects for a number of district councils in both the Adelaide metropolitan area and nearby rural districts in South Australia.
In 1993 he opened his own consultancy, specialising in flood and drainage problems.
After 23 years in Adelaide, Ken and Lesley both retired and moved to Canberra, where they spent the last four and a half years.
Ken was highly respected for his work both in the Caribbean and in his new homeland of South Australia. His family and many friends describe him as a gentleman, quiet and kind. It was a pleasure to have known him and worked with him, and a privilege to have been his friend, they say.
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