Dr Saul: the midwife’ in the birth of Bermuda College
The tributes to the late David Saul cannot conclude without a mention of his significant contribution in the development of the vision for a postsecondary institution on the island.
Dr Saul was the self-described “midwife” in the birth of Bermuda College more than 40 years ago, facilitating the impassioned vision of its progenitor, the late Stanley Ratteray, and nurturing its development over the years, while initially working as a consultant to the Ministry of Education.
In his own words, reflected in a presentation Dr Saul made during celebration of Bermuda College’s 40th anniversary, he wrote: “The plan was for me to conduct a thorough examination of the education system in Bermuda following the recent racial integration of schools. I was to conduct a study and make as many recommendations as I saw fit that would improve the whole system. Remember, we are talking about 1972 — some 42 years ago. [Things do really go in cycles, would you not agree?]”
Although it took a while for the local-college concept to gain traction with their parliamentary colleagues, the arrival of newly appointed Minister of Education Gloria McPhee brought enthusiastic support, which was shared by also newly appointed chairman of the Board of Education J. David Gibbons, who had recently won a seat in Parliament.
According to Dr Saul, Mr Gibbons had been chairman of the old Technical Institute and was keen to advance any tertiary education plans in Bermuda. Soon, the young seedling of a college in Bermuda began to sprout. Dr Saul agreed to prepare a paper for Cabinet’s consideration. Then, with Mrs McPhee’s enthusiasm, and the strong backing of Mr Gibbons, those who had earlier objected to the proposal were won over to Mrs McPhee’s side.
“The Bermuda College concept was thus launched. However, much work remained to be done,” he recalled.
The post of permanent secretary at the Ministry of Education became vacant a short time later. Dr Saul applied and was appointed to the post by the Public Service Commission in 1973. The idea of a Bermuda College was off the “drawing board” and was about to become a reality. The burning question remained, however: who would take the lead?
Mr Gibbons agreed to assume the role and became the first chairman of the Board of Governors. The creation of a Bermuda College Act followed, which was passed in 1974. Interestingly enough, Dr Saul noted, prolonged discussion ensued, after the passage of The Bermuda College Act, about the new location of the college, with various options being proffered and summarily dismissed as outrageous, including Admiralty House and Government House.
When the discussion found its way back to more weighty matters, such as organising the college’s administrative leadership, Dr Saul was again instrumental in securing the services of an exceptionally qualified Canadian, Russ Ford, for a two-year period, while a Bermudian would be sought to succeed him.
Again, Dr Saul stepped in, and in an excerpt from his presentation, noted: “I had worked with the headmaster of the Sandys Secondary School, Mansfield “Jim” Brock. I knew he was a very good educational administrator and certainly had the qualities that were needed to take over the running of the Bermuda College from Dr Ford. Diplomacy, tact and discipline, not to mention academic and administrative skills were going to be required: I knew Mr Brock was the ideal person for the job.”
Mr Brock joined the college on August 5, 1974.
Dr Saul continued to make significant contributions to the development of the college’s executive and senior leadership, including securing the academic prowess, obvious talent and passionate commitment of Archie Hallett, who became the college’s first president, and subsequently, George Cook, Head of the Department of Academic Studies.
Most poignantly, Dr Saul drew his presentation to a close with words that today appear prescient: “Sadly, ... Dr Ratteray, Mrs McPhee and David Gibbons are no longer with us. I remain the sole survivor of those pioneers and I felt I had to tell this story for those who benefited from their endeavours. It is a tale that just had to be told ... It has been my objective ... to ensure that their foresight and their sacrifices shall never be forgotten ... as long as there is a Bermuda College”.
Dr Saul was inducted into the Company of Honorary Fellows at Bermuda College in 2013.
The flag flies at half-mast in the College Courtyard today in Dr Saul’s memory.
•Evelyn James Barnett is the Director of Communications at the Bermuda College
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