(From L-R): Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of USP, Associate Professor Jacqueline Leckie, author of the book and Mr Winston Thompson, Pro-Chancellor and Chair of USP Council.
The Vice-Chancellor and President of The University of the South Pacific, Professor Rajesh Chandra launched a commemorative book in celebration of the University’s 50th Anniversary on 29 October 2018.
The book, which is entitled “A University for the Pacific, 50 Years of USP”, chronicles the journey of this unique institution that has contributed a lot to the development of its member countries.
Professor Chandra thanked the author of the book, Associate Professor Jacqueline Leckie of Victoria University of Wellington, who, he stated has “in a short period, and with so many sources that are not published, produced an excellent book that traces the University’s successful journey as a regional institution.”
The book, he added, comprises Dr Leckie’s own writing and the collection of excellent pieces from so many people who have contributed to USP’s success.
Sharing his experiences as a student who joined the University in 1971, Professor Chandra had a lot to talk about the vast changes that took place along the years.
He recalled that back in the days, USP was very small, with none of the modern buildings that are present today.
“We had the hangar and the houses that had been occupied by the Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Flying Boat Base. These had been hurriedly converted into lecture and tutorial rooms as well as the housing for new staff,” he said.
He also informed that in those days, students were very outspoken and ventured in all sorts of things on Campus.
Talking about the work environment at USP, Professor Chandra said that early days of employment was difficult as there were very few staff from the region, adding that most of them were British, New Zealanders and Australians who enjoyed privileges and salaries much higher than those available to regional staff through salary supplementation funded by these countries directly.
But Professor Chandra, acknowledged the then Vice-Chancellor, Mr Geoffery Caston, who played a crucial role in leading the University during Fiji’s first political crisis in 1987.
Now, as the University draws close to the end of its 50th anniversary, there is little doubt that it has a great deal to be happy about its progress since its establishment.
Professor Chandra noted that nearly everyone has commented on the tremendous success of the University whether in terms of student growth, number of campuses and overall facilities, or the number of awards it has achieved.
“The whole look and feel of the University and its culture and confidence are that of a modern, successful university,” he added.
Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President and Mr Winston Thompson, Pro-Chancellor and Chair of USP Council browse through the book.
He highlighted that USP of today is a team effort and the sum of the contributions of all the Vice-Chancellors, Chancellors, Pro-Chancellors, Chairs of the University Grants Committee, Council, Senate and their committees, Senior Management, the hardworking staff, students, development partners, friends and alumni of the University.
“It is also the result of the far-sighted wisdom and principles established in our two key foundational documents: the Morris Report and the Alexander Report that emphasised such crucial issues as quality, autonomy, academic freedom, the need to feel the university in every town and settlement with the push for distance education, and the concern for being an agent of development of our countries and societies. I record our collective gratitude to all these pioneers,” Professor Chandra stated.
He closed his remarks by commenting that with the new USP convention and Strategic Plan, the University should be confident about its future, provided that it maintains strong governance and reputation.
In her address, Associate Professor Leckie recalled her introductory connections in compiling the book, and shared that, “during that time the mission was daunting on how to compress fifty (50) years in one book and convey some of the key moments in USP’s history.”
To this, she added that soon after, ideas and suggestions came thick and fast, but she had to whittle them down to what was feasible within a very short time frame.
A distinctive feature of the University is that it is a regional University. In practice, Associate Professor Leckie said that it was impossible to give intensive coverage to all of the campuses, centres and countries that are part of USP.
She thanked the editorial board, the Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council Mr Winston Thompson, and Professor Chandra for their constructive feedback towards the book.
She acknowledged the logistical support that came from the 50th Projects Office, also adding that “I am grateful to the wonderful contributors – alumni, former and present staff who contributed towards the reflections in Part II of the book.”
Mr Thompson congratulated the University for this historic publication on the occasion of its 50th Anniversary.
He added that this book is a must for anyone who have studied, worked or visited the University at any point in its’ long and fascinating history.
Present at the launch was the Vice-Chancellor and President Designate, Professor Pal Ahluwalia, members of the diplomatic corps, members of the 50th Anniversary Steering Committee, members of the editorial board of the book, contributors of the book and University staff.
The commemorative book is available for purchase from USP Bookcentre.
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