REX NETTLEFORD, was a well-known Caribbean scholar, trade union educator, social and cultural historian and political analyst. A former Rhodes Scholar, he was Vice Chancellor Emeritus at The University of the West Indies, Jamaica. After taking an undergraduate degree in History at the UWI he pursued post-graduate studies in Politics at Oxford. He was also the co-founder, artistic director and principal choreographer of the internationally acclaimed National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica and is widely regarded throughout the Caribbean and the
Diaspora as a leading authority on development and cultural dynamics.
In 2003, the centenary year of the Rhodes Scholarships, when the University of Oxford conferred honorary degrees on four prominent Rhodes Scholars from around the world, Rex Nettleford was one of the chosen four. The citation described him as ‘a vice-chancellor, a man of the greatest versatility: effective in action, outstanding in erudition, and most supple in dance.’
In 2004, The Rhodes Trust established The Rex Nettleford Fellowship in Cultural Studies, not least ‘to honour Rex’s distinguished contribution to higher education and the cultural life of the Caribbean.’
Except for three years at Oxford on Rhodes scholarship, Rex spent the rest of his adult life at The University of the West Indies. His curriculum vitae shows how he ascended the academic ladder, from Resident Tutor in the Extra-
Mural Department, through Director of Studies of the Trade Union Education Institute, Director of Extra-Mural Studies, Professor of Extra-Mural Studies, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and eventually Vice-Chancellor Emeritus, discharging all responsibilities of those offices with credit to himself and benefit to the institution. He did all this while engaged in a vast number of activities in a wide range of areas and geographies and accumulating numerous accolades and awards that speak to his varied talents. But Rex was more than an assemblage of talents.
His intellectual gifts and wise counsel have been generously shared with many heads of Government, not only in Jamaica, but throughout the Caribbean and beyond. Professor Nettleford has been consulted by just about every government in the Caribbean region (including the non-English speaking countries) and has served in an advisory capacity to several international organizations, including CARICOM, the Organization of American States, UNESCO, the ILO, the World Bank and the International Development Research Council (IRDC) of which he is a founding director. His gift of erudition, combined with his inability to decline appeals for contributions of his talent in this area, resulted in his maintenance of a speaking schedule that would daunt normal mortals.