From left: Sharon Freiburg, Roberto Celestino Arrindell, Maurice Lake, Valerie Giterson-Pantophlet and Benson Pompier. Photo courtesy of Edgardo Lynch.
PHILIPSBURG–University of St. Martin (USM) culminated its thirtieth anniversary celebrations with a crowd of more than 150 people Saturday, November 16.
USM’s campus was decorated in ceremonious colours and lighting for the event. Guests were serenaded by steelpan player Richelyne Arrindell of Sweet Pan Entertainment St. Maarten and later Control Band.
Local radio icon Ronny Busby served as master of ceremonies (MC) for the evening. Festivities began with a rendition of the St. Maarten/St. Martin Song and a series of blessings and reflections by students of the Christian, Hindu and Buddhist traditions, USM said in a press release on Tuesday.
The event was attended by caretaker Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports (ECYS) Wycliffe Smith, who also served as USM’s first director, dignitaries from different governmental bodies, Members of Parliament, and representatives of partnering foundations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the local business community.
USM Board of Directors President Valerie Giterson-Pantophlet summarised USM’s history, highlighting its most significant moments and the founders’ intentions. She concluded with a call to “continue to struggle for higher education.”
Together with fellow board member Benson Pompier, Giterson-Pantophlet presented awards and plaques of recognition to the longest standing staff and faculty members of the 30-year-old academic institution. Among them were Robert Celestino Arrindell, USM’s first math instructor, who had been with USM since day one; recently retired Sharon Freiburg, who served USM in different capacities, including Dean of Academic Affairs since 1994; and former parliamentarian Maurice Lake, who taught in the fields of Business and Economics since 1993, the release said.
USM President Dr. Antonio Carmona Báez offered words of admiration to the staff who were responsible for maintaining the university after Hurricane Irma. “It is because of their love for what they are doing [for education – Ed.], contributing to the country, that USM remained opened; and after 30 years we continue to march on,” he said. During the ceremony he announced what he called “two very appropriate and timely surprises.”
The first was that through a call being made by the Dutch Research Council NWO for programme chairs in the Caribbean, USM was finally recognised as a fully-functioning institution of higher education qualified to receive research grants. As with the universities of Curaçao and Aruba, USM is recognised by the Netherlands-Flemish Accreditation Organisation, although full institutional accreditation for all three is still sought, the release said.
The second surprise announced was the Ansary Foundation’s commitment earlier that week for the donation of US $1 million to USM for capital needs, improvement of infrastructure and upgrading the classrooms.
“We are very thankful for the kindness demonstrated by the Ansary Foundation on this occasion. However, those who aspire to be in the next government should not misinterpret this as a relief of duty. We continue to need support from government, and the number one priority for 2020 should be the passing of the ordinance on higher education,” Carmona said.
USM co-founder Hushang Ansary was not able to attend the celebration, but a local delegation representing his legacy was publicly acknowledged. According to the release, USM also took advantage of the moment to focus on the campaign to reach out to alumni, an effort by administration to remake contact with the more than 800 graduates since 1991.
“We are hoping to regroup the USM family and involve the alumni in the life of the institution,” said Alumni Campaign leader Kharl Oliver, a USM alumnus himself who graduated with his Associate of Arts degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management, class of 2019.
In closing the evening, MC Busby thanked the USM Ambassadors who coordinated logistics for the evening on campus.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/92621-usm-celebrates-30th-anniversary