May 16, 2010 News
“One of the greatest living Guyanese today” – Bishop George
A number of well wishers gathered at Le Meridien Friday evening to join Dr. Yesu Persaud in celebrating the renaming of the University of Warwick’s Centre for Caribbean Studies in his honour.
Professor of Literature at the University, David Dabydeen, told the story of the centre’s renaming, which he noted was a first in the university’s illustrious history. The proposal was presented to the Administration in September 2009, but it had to run a gauntlet of approving bodies before it became a reality.
Dabydeen said that contrary to his belief that there would have been some opposition to the proposal, it actually went through the University Steering Committee, the Board of Arts, and finally the University’s Council with unanimous approval at all points.
He said that the University felt that Dr. Persaud’s achievements, his transition from poverty and working in the cane fields to where he is now, his numerous philanthropic and business contributions to the country, region and wider world – all merit recognition.
On March 17, last, the decision was handed down; Professor Dabydeen’s proposal became a reality. The University of Warwick’s Center for Caribbean Studies was to be renamed the Yesu Persaud Centre for Caribbean Studies.
Dr. Persaud, who has been a fellow of the University for some 12 years and was awarded an honorary doctorate two years ago, had made history at the University when the centre was renamed in his honour. No other body or institute at the University of Warwick carried the name of a person.
“Why me?” was the question Dr. Persaud asked when he first heard the news. He was still asking it on the night of the reception.
Dr Persaud argued, “I’m a simple, humble man; I aspire not to get anything in return. Whatever I have to do, I do and I do it to the best of my ability and with determination.”
He shared with the gathering that his motto in life was rooted in the fact that he had had a hard upbringing and as such, “you should try to make it a lot easier for others when you can and for as long as you can.”
The proud, yet humble man, told of his modest beginnings here in Guyana where he worked in the cane fields as a “rat catcher” (his second job), to his trials in England as he struggled to work, educate himself and raise a family.
Dr Persaud went from being a railway porter and factory worker in London to a qualified accountant, a position which he said was critical to his success in Guyana as a result of the experience gained.
He then made the momentous decision to return to his homeland. A decision which was met with resistance by his employer who asked why he would want to give up his comfortable life to return to a country that was tearing itself apart.
According to Dr Persaud, he persisted with his decision even though his boss had offered him a partnership in the firm.
He spoke of promises kept, that he had made to himself and others upon his return to Guyana.
One such promise was the Institute of Private Enterprise Development (IPED); he noted that it has helped thousands of people over the years, and vivifies his philosophy of helping people to help themselves.
As he looked back over the years, he said, “My life has had a hard beginning, a reasonably good middle and the last 20 years to 30 years, a good amount of satisfaction.”
He pointed out that even in the later years there have been challenges, making reference to the early 90s when according to him he was an “enemy of the state.”
In his closing remarks to those gathered and seemingly to impart some of the wisdom that he has accrued over the years, he said that he has learnt to choose his friends wisely and cautioned young people to do the same. He also took the opportunity to point out that over the years he has read widely into every school of Philosophy.
The thought that resonates most deeply with him however was “We are whatever we make ourselves … the greatest of conquests is the conquest of yourself.”
Following his presentation there was an outpouring of congratulatory remarks from individuals such as Vanda Radzig, Historian Sister Mary Noel Menezes, British High Commissioner Fraser Wheeler, Bishop Randolph George, Chandradat Chintamani and the Labour Minister Manzoor Nadir, among others.
Radzig said that Dr. Persaud was “a true Caribbean story; he started from nothing and is now world acclaimed”. She encouraged him to reach out to young people and share his inspirational story with the children of the country.
Sister Mary Noel called for more ‘simple, humble souls’ like Dr. Persaud. She said, “His concern for the needy and the downtrodden is vital in our society”. She called the renaming of the centre “an honour for the University”.
Bishop Randolph George closed the proceedings on a high note when he said, “I am privileged to count myself among his friends … he is without equivocation one of the greatest living Guyanese today.”
Dr. Persaud was also presented with a tangible reminder of the centre’s renaming in the form of a uniquely styled and engraved pen in a wooden box which had the centre’s new name carved into its lid.
He is writing a book that details his life. This book should go into print later this year.
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