Howard Cooke was the master teacher, who became an education minister and governor general. He was succeeded by another scholar and educator, Professor Kenneth Octavius Hall, a man who had a long and distinguished career in the field of education.
Hall was born in Lucea, Hanover, on April 21, 1941, and attended Rusea’s High School, one of Jamaica’s oldest secondary schools. He went on to hold a bachelor’s degree in history from The University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona campus, a post-graduate diploma in international relations from the Institute of International Relations in Trinidad, a master of arts degree and a doctor of philosophy degree in history from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
Hall spent most of his adult life as a university educator and administrator in Jamaica and the United States. As an educator, he lectured in history at The UWI. From 1973 to 1974, he was a faculty research associate at Syracuse University. At the State University of New York, he was adjunct professor of Caribbean studies; he was professor of American Studies at the Old Westbury campus, and professor of history at the Oswego campus.
At the State University of New York, he was assistant provostat Oswego (1982-1984), assistant provost and assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs at Albany; vice president of academic affairs and faculty dean (1989-1994), and provice-chancellor and principal of The UWI, 1996-2006.
During his 10 years at the helm at UWI, it is said that “the policies he implemented resulted in a significant transformation in academic programmes, physical infrastructure, and in student relations on the campus”, that he was “zealous in his efforts to establish an environment that was conducive to learning, and one that was supported heavily by information and communication technologies”.
Professor Hall was moving with the technological tides, but political currents pulled him away to King’s House. He was appointed governor general of Jamaica on February 16, 2006. He was the fourth Jamaican since Independence in 1962 to be so appointed. King’s House says, “As Governor General, Professor Sir Kenneth Hall used his office to build national consensus on issues such as youth and education and the importance of recognising and rewarding excellence.”
He was also “committed to promoting the importance of a robust moral order and strong civic culture as the essential pillars of social and economic progress”, and “he combined his interest in young people and the promotion of excellence to establish the Governor-General’s Youth Award for Excellence Programme”,which has evolved into the current Governor General’s Achievement Awards.
Sir Kenneth is well known for his contribution to the advancement of the regional integration process, while he was on the CARICOM Secretariat from 1975-1977, and from 1994 to 1996, when he was deputy secretary general. He is an Honorary Distinguished Fellow of the Mona School of Business, at the Mona campus of The University of the West Indies. In 2003, he was appointed chairman of the Caribbean Examinations Council.
Professor Hall also served as chairman of the board of directors of Mona Institute of Business. He has been affiliated with several associations and served as consultant to several local and international organisations.
Sir Kenneth is a prolific writer who has published several books, articles, and reviews on issues relating to history and international relations. Some of his publications include Integration – CARICOM’s Key to Prosperity, Production Integration in CARICOM: From Theory to Action, Rex N: Rex Nettleford Selected Speeches, Integrate or Perish! Perspectives of Leaders of the Integration Movement 1963-2002, and Governance in the Age of Globalisation.
In 2004, the Government of Jamaica conferred upon Professor Hall the Order of Jamaica for significant contribution to education and regional development. Upon being sworn in as governor general, he was bestowed with Jamaica’s second highest national honour, the Order of the Nation. One year and eight months after being appointed Jamaica’s fifth governor general, he was conferred with the Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George on November 6, 2007, and received the insignia from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on May 30, 2008.
Citing health reasons, Sir Kenneth Hall resigned on January 13, 2009, as governor general. He is married to Rheima Holding and has one daughter. The historian was the shortest-serving native governor general, a history-maker himself. In the annals of Jamaican history he has certainly made an indelible mark in the areas of education and leadership.