Sun | Sep 19, 2021

Trevor Munroe | Celebrating Prof Edwin Jones – exemplary scholar of good governance

Published:Sunday | April 18, 2021 | 12:10 AM
Prof Edwin Jones
Prof Edwin Jones
Professor Trevor Munroe
Professor Trevor Munroe
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Professor Edwin Samuel Jones, Ed, as he was affectionately called by faculty and by associates alike, was my very dear friend and deeply admired colleague for over 50 years.

Ed’s earliest engagement with the university world over a half century ago was indicative of the distinguished career that was to unfold over the next few decades. First as a teaching assistant in the late ‘60s and then a lecturer in public administration, Ed was regarded even in those early years as erudite in preparation and presentation but, as well, inspiring and encouraging, as one of his early students remembers him. But even in those initial years, it was becoming evident that the beloved lecture room and the university’s library could not confine his contribution.

In 1972, not fully two years after being awarded his doctorate from the University of Manchester, Ed served as the consultant to the International Labour Organization on Caribbean Industrial Relations Systems; his first academic article was equally indicative, The Role of Statutory Boards in the Political Process in Jamaica and his very first public appointment was as special advisor to the minister of housing in 1974, on the Rent Restriction and Housing Policy.

Clearly, from these early years, the seeds were germinating of a quintessential Caribbean public scholar, not an academic confined to an ‘ivory tower’, but one whose vision was of innovative teaching, transformational policy - relevant research and sustained engagement with the policy community - at ministerial and grassroots levels - at home and abroad, in the field of development administration.

This mission of path-breaking scholarships in the service of transformation over the next decades led Ed to professorships at the University of the West Indies and at the Mico University, the headship of the Department of Government and Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, to visiting appointments at academic institutions in the United States and United Kingdom; to distinguished service on private as well on public-sector boards and in offices dealing with reform; reform of the police, of local government and of the public sector as a whole. In that last regard, Professor Jones, while a member of the Faculty of Social Sciences, gave over 20 years’ outstanding service on Jamaica’s Public Service Commission, seeking at all times to advance the modernisation of the public sector.

In the course of this wide range of engagements, he sought to extract academically relevant lessons at the same time as to apply research embodied in his many publications, four books, over 50 refereed articles and more than a score of official reports for governments across the region, aimed at transforming public administration to the benefit of the Caribbean people. At the same time, hundreds of undergraduates, scores of diploma, masters and doctoral students benefited from his teaching and supervision over the years.

So did ministers of governments – of local government, tourism, labour, housing, not to mention prime ministers who appointed him to and benefited from his positions as special advisor. Additionally, a range of organisations drew on his consultancy services – including the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Organization of American States, the Caribbean Centre for Development Administration and the United Nations Development Programme.

UNASSUMING CHARACTER

Edwin Samuel more than deserved the accolades he received, from the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence, to the Mico Gold Medal, to Jamaica’s fourth highest honour, the Order of Jamaica.

But none of this, as we would say in Jamaican, “flew to Edwin’s head”. He kept his own special unassuming, distinct character; maintaining balance in the sharp debates among faculty between extremes in the ‘70s and ‘80s, always well put together and a picture of sartorial elegance on formal occasions. Edwin was also an individual of great discipline and much courage, never succumbing to illness, but diligently pursuing his exercise programme to strengthen legs and limbs struck by debilitating illness. Most of all, we remember Edwin, along with Maria his beloved wife, as the perfect host at home, entertaining friends and guests with exquisite cuisine and taste but with modesty and without ostentation.

Professor Edwin Samuel Jones was undoubtedly among the most outstanding and exemplary products of the UWI’s Faculty of Social Sciences. His personality, his work, and his stellar contribution to modernising public administration in the Caribbean constitute an enduring legacy and firm foundation on which current and future faculty are challenged to emulate and to build.

May his soul Rest In Peace.

- Professor Trevor Munroe is principal director, National Integrity Action. Send feedback to info.niajamaica.org or columns@gleanerjm.com.