Wednesday 16 January, 2019

10 notable achievements of former president George Maxwell Richards

Former president of Trinidad and Tobago, Professor George Maxwell Richards (1931-2018), passed away on January 8, 2018, and was well-loved by many. He was 86 years old.

Here are 10 things to know about the country’s fourth president of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

1. He was the first president without a legal background.

Professor Richards was the first president who was not an attorney at law. Instead, Richards, who is Professor Emeritus in Chemical Engineering at the Department of Engineering at the University of the West Indies (UWI), won an exhibition to study at the prestigious Queen’s Royal College.

He then won a scholarship while working with the United British Oilfields of Trinidad (precursor to Shell Trinidad Ltd), going on to attain Bachelor of Engineering and Masters of Engineering degrees in chemical engineering at the University of Manchester. He later attained a PhD at the University of Cambridge.

2. He was the first president in the English-speaking Caribbean of Amerindian heritage.

Professor Richards was known as the first President to have Amerindian ancestry according to the Office of the President’s website. Professor Richards was also of Chinese ancestry, reflecting the multi-ethnic, multicultural diversity of Trinidad and Tobago.

 

(Photo: Professor Richards greets football legend Dwight Yorke in 2008 prior to attending a 2010 World Cup Qualifier match in Guatemala. T&T subsequently won the match.)

3. He supported having a female president.

Professor Richards reportedly was in support of having a future female president. He said in a 2008 Newsday report that he would support any call for a female president.

“The genetic make-up of women makes then better politicians,” he claims. “They tend to be less confrontational, more inclined to look for solutions,” he said.

​​​​​​4. He served two terms as president.

Like former presidents Sir Ellis Clarke and Noor Hassanali, and subsequent president Anthony Carmona, Professor Richards also served two terms in office as President of Trinidad and Tobago, from 2003 to 2013.  

(In this undated photo, Professor Richards surveys a parade of the Trinidad and Tobago Cadet Force.)

5. He received several national awards.

Professor Richards was awarded the Chaconia Medal (Gold) and the nation’s highest award, the Trinity Cross – which were bestowed upon him in 1977 and 2003 respectively, in recognition of his outstanding achievements.

Richards also received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 2007.

6. He is related (by marriage) to former president Noor Hassanali.

Professor Richards married Dr Jean Ramjohn-Richards, cousin of former President Noor Mohammed Hassanali and Olympic long-distance runner Manny Ramjohn. The couple have two children.

 

7. He loved Carnival and played every year.

Professor Richards was well-known for his love of Carnival and religiously took part in the celebration every year. He even had his own Carnival fete, Friends To the Max, which was eventually dissolved to create a new event called Juss’ Maxx.

 

8. He was the subject of a hoax which faked his death.

Professor Richards was the subject of a hoax online due to a fake news story which claimed that he died in 2016. However when contacted, his family assured that he was well.  

(Photo: Professor Richards and daughter Maxine Richards.

9. He weathered tough times as UWI's former principal.

Richards served as Principal through the turbulent period in 1988 when the government slashed the university's budget by 30% and instituted a cess on university students (effectively raising tuition from TT$120 to $3000 overnight).

10. He helped to make the UWI’s engineering department what it is today.

Professor Richards made significant contributions to the UWI’s engineering department including ensuring that the university’s programmes were internationally accredited.

He served as Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering, and then Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, before ascending to the ranks of Deputy Principal, Acting Principal, Pro-Vice Chancellor and, finally, Principal in 1985.

 

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