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Cave Hill Remembers Mr. Michael Gill

For Release Upon Receipt - Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Passing of Campus Librarian Mr. Michael Gill

Michael Gill-3-3-2020.jpgIt is with much sadness that we learned of the passing of Mr. Michael Gill, former Campus Librarian, whose death leaves a void among the dedicated stalwarts of the Cave Hill campus community.

Mr. Gill joined the staff of The University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus as an Assistant Librarian in September 1967 and was part of a small team which built up the Campus Library from scratch.

Soon after joining the University, the quality of his work and special skills were quickly recognized by the University Librarian, William Gocking. He was promoted to Senior Assistant Librarian on May 1, 1970 and to Deputy Librarian on October 1, 1974.

Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor The Most Honourable V. Eudine Barriteau remembers Mr. Gill as a consummate professional.

“Mr. Gill led the library with a quiet dignity and a welcoming smile. He not only ensured the now renamed Sidney Martin Library remained well resourced in catering to the research needs of the Faculty and students but he was deeply involved in the broader life of the Campus community, actively leading the
Cavite Chorale, Staff Chorale and The University Choir for many years. His was a life well lived. On behalf of the Cave Hill Campus Community, I offer our deepest sympathies to his wife, family and loved ones.

Mr. Gill’s successor, Ms Nel Bretney, also shared fond memories of her time working with him, stating: “Working with people was his major strength and with quiet efficiency and patience he gained the trust of the staff. He championed continuing education and under his leadership many members of staff were able to enhance their professional qualifications. He has left a legacy that will long be remembered by all of the Campus Libraries of the UWI.”

Officer-in-Charge of The Caribbean Law Institute Centre, and former Faculty of Law Library Librarian, Professor Velma Newton recalled: “He was respected by librarians both in the wider University community and in other institutions largely because of his solution oriented approach and his willingness to assist in the advancement of librarianship elsewhere in the other institutions in Barbados and the wider Caribbean.”

Former Campus Registrar, Andrew Lewis, also spoke positively of Mr. Gill’s impact on the campus noting that: “Michael’s contribution to the growth and development of the Cave Hill Campus was enormous. He was one of its significant pioneering builders. His claim cries out for public recognition”.

Former colleague Mrs. Jean Small, a member of the campus choir at the time, reflected on the fervour with which Mr. Gill directed the choir as a testament to his love for music.

The former librarian was also remembered as a “Campus man” who not only assisted in nurturing and developing interest in the performing arts, but also played an active role in the administration of sports and the staging of ceremonies and cultural events.

Contemporaries recall him as an easygoing and gentle man, with recently retired librarian Mr. Carlysle Best stating: “He was the most patient and unselfish personality that you could ever meet, and I enjoyed every moment with him as my boss.

Other library staff also shared their fond memories.

Though I did not work directly with Mr. Gill, I did interact with him on a professional level through the Barbados Library Association, and I found him to be extremely helpful, and professional in all of his dealings. In many ways, I found him to be a mentor of sorts, and I always appreciated his quiet nature but very professional approach to librarianship,” Officer-in-Charge of the Sidney Martin Library, Judith Toppin stated.

Ms. Margaret Iton, Liason Librarian for Science and Technology, said: “While I joined the library’s staff in the year of his retirement, in that short period I quickly recognized that Mr. Gill possessed a special talent, his unassuming manner aside, for inspiring a culture of community among all levels of staff. To his wife and family, I extend my deepest condolences.”

Former campus principal Sir Keith Hunte, said he has “a deep appreciation of the many ways in which Mr. Gill contributed to enriching the corporate life at Cave Hill.”

The University is richer for his 34 years of service to our institution where he has left an enduring legacy.


By Andrew Lewis, retired Campus Registrar

It was so sad to hear of Michael Gill's recent passing. He was a good and gentle man, a helpful and unpresumptuous colleague. I saw him shortly before he left for medical care abroad: so brave and unburdensome to others, in this illness.

In 1970 he succeeded, as the new Cave Hill Campus Librarian, to a miniscule ‘collection’ which was as basic as the rudimentary physical facilities that was the College of Arts and Science at the Deep Water Harbour site. On his retirement in 2001 the UWI Cave Hill Library could stand its own among the best libraries of small university campuses anywhere.

Four areas at least, in particular, of his contribution stand out:

Firstly, the building and expansion of a Main Library collection ‘fit for purpose’ as a full-fledged University Campus. In the Campus’ almost permanent condition of financial scarcity, Michael used the device of an unfailing but characteristic quiet insistence to University management, for a fixed proportion of the campus’ overall annual budget, and a fair share of its equally scarce capital funds. In this way he ensured that the library’s collection was never left behind in the constant and aggressive efforts of the academics and administrators to grow the University’s programmes to respond to the national and growing manpower training needs. He managed the library to ensure that its service always took account of the needs of the largely part-time student body. He encouraged and established a collaborative relationship with the other libraries in Barbados and other campuses so as to broaden the borrowing access of Cave Hill students to the collections of the other campuses and those of international universities where Cave Hill’s were deficient.

Secondly, Michael was exceptionally skillful in leading the recruitment of the best professional and support library staff that Cave Hill could afford. He developed among his staff, a teamwork that was enviable. In this way the Campus community always got more than it paid for.

Thirdly, when the opportunity presented itself at the time of an IDB science and technology loan, Michael skillfully negotiated for the doubling of the Main library space and the automation of its services, and the incorporation for the first time, of a distinct library.

Fourthly, Michael’s professional contribution extended beyond the Campus and the University to the nation as a whole. He ensured that the Library maintained close and collaborative relations with the national library service. This eliminated any sense of rivalry and superiority. It was therefore no surprise that he accepted a secondment from the UWI to the Government of Barbados in 1982- 84 to serve as the first Director of the Barbados Library, Archives and Information Network and to plan, lead and manage what evolved as Barbados’ National Library Service.

Michael’s contribution to the growth and development of the Cave Hill Campus was enormous. He was one of its significant pioneering builders. His claim cries out for public recognition.

By Nel Bretney, former Campus Librarian

I am deeply saddened by the death of my friend and colleague Michael Gill. He was the longest serving Campus Librarian at Cave Hill and was at the helm during the Main Library’s structural and technological transformation. Working with people was his major strength and with quiet efficiency and patience he gained the trust of the staff.

He championed continuing education and under his leadership many members of staff were able to enhance their professional qualifications. He has left a legacy that will long be remembered by all of the Campus Libraries of the UWI. A people’s person, he tried to teach some of us his favourite game, bridge; alas, for me to no avail.

He was my friend, colleague, mentor and adviser. Last year when I celebrated a milestone, I drew up a list of contemporaries who had made an indelible mark on my life and career. Michael was on that list. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to express my gratitude for all that he had done. Little did we know that the end was not far away. The bell tolled and Michael has answered. Rest well, my friend. Rest well.

Pedro L V Welch ( Prof.)Retired Deputy Principal.

I received with sadness the news of the passing of Mr. Michael Gill, retired Campus Librarian of the UWI (Cave Hill). His passing comes as somewhat of a surprise, in part, because although his retirement from active service took place some time ago, the sheer force of his personality conveyed, almost, an aura of indestructibility. His contribution to the administration of the campus and his participation in the cultural life of the institution, more particularly in the Cavite Chorale, marks a signal moment in the development of a Cave Hill ethos that will be difficult to reproduce. May his family, friends, and loved ones be comforted at this moment of sorrow

Rob Leyshon, Senior Lecturer in English

Michael was one of the very first people I got to know when I arrived in Barbados way back in September 1993. He'd come along to my office around mid-morning and we'd talk about books, tennis, Wales (my home country, which he knew well) and of course music. When he found out I'd once sang in a performance of Verdi's Requiem his face lit up. Within a week I was a member of the University Staff Choir; a reluctant member I confess, but how could I say no to the gently insistent Michael?

He was the kindest of men, with a radiant smile and that fantastic laugh. I'll never forget his warmth and good fellowship in my first few bewildering days in a strange land. Farewell Michael. Get home safe.

Victor Cooke, Former Campus Bursar.

Michael Gill was one of those early dedicated UWI Cave HillCampus employees, who believed that the sun rose and set on the Cave Hill Library, now called the Sidney Martin Library.Michael was one of those heads of departments/units who made absolutely sure that the library got its full share of the Campus budget, and that he himself was permitted to attend International University Library meetings wherever they were held. The Principal supported him over the campus bursar. But the bursar evened that out by giving whatever he wanted for the choral, even to the extent of purchasing a grand piano for their highly prized concerts. Michael was also a very keen bridge player. Although the Campus did not have a bridge club, whenever Michael and his partner won a tournament, it was as though the Campus had won. Michael gave his all to whatever endeavor he was engaged upon. The Campus has had to say farewell to another dedicated campus soul. May that soul rest in peace. I trust that the Campus at this late stage would see its way for some lasting memory to Mike.


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