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Tributes to Professor George "Ted" Mathison

For Release Upon Receipt - Thursday, October 30, 2014



Professor Mathison served as Head of the Biology Department for seventeen years and became Dean in 1993, serving until he retired in 2001. He was instrumental in the initiation and development of the microbiology field in Barbados from the 1980s until his retirement in 2001. 

Below Professor Mathison's colleagues pay tribute to him.




Professor Sean McDowell, Head, Department of Biological and Chemical Sciences

On behalf of my colleagues and Staff Members in the Department of Biological and Chemical Sciences, I wish to offer my condolences to the family and friends of Professor Emeritus George Mathison, our former colleague and Dean, and a long-standing Member of the Cave Hill academic community. His invaluable contribution to the growth of the Biological sciences at Cave Hill, and especially the Microbiology discipline, have been commented on by other colleagues in our Department and Faculty and undoubtedly leaves a lasting legacy to successive generations of graduates of our University. 

The glowing tributes and fond memories shared by my colleagues who have had a longer and closer relationship with Prof. Mathison has been documented and there is little that I can add to this portrait. I remember Prof. Mathison as a man with a very nice sense of humour, whose interesting little anecdotes and stories during many a Faculty Board meeting as Dean, helped to bring some much needed levity to these often tiresome affairs.

May his family and friends gain some comfort from the happy memories at this time of loss.


Professor Wayne Hunte, PVC

Highly intelligent, broadly knowledgeable, dry sense of humour, candid and thought-provoking in his comments, Ted Mathison was a motivation and inspiration to us all in the early days of the Department of Biology.  Under his guidance and leadership, it transformed and grew from an undergraduate unit to a fully functional research-oriented University Department.  I owe much to his wisdom and insights, and to his ability to challenge me.  It is most appropriate that his contribution to this Campus and University be acknowledged and recognized at the time of his passing.  May he rest in peace.


Professor Emeritus Leo Moseley 

Although we were not in the same field of science, I worked closely with Professor George "Ted" Mathison as Deputy Dean throughout most if not all of his nine years as Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology. He showed me how to maneuver through the minefield of Campus and University regulations and, especially, to identify battles I could not win. Ted fulfilled most of the criteria defining a University academic - research, teaching and service. He was both empathetic and judicial to staff and students alike, and knew how use "Dean's Discretion" as a rapier rather than a bludgeon. He served Campus and University well.

 Professor Sean Carrington

When Prof. George ‘Ted’ Mathison joined the Cave Hill Campus as Professor of Biology in 1981 from Queen Elizabeth College, University of London, he brought with him a wealth of knowledge and experience. I joined the staff a year later and was able to observe Ted in his role of Head of the Biology Department and later Dean of the Faculty as he worked tirelessly to see the UWI develop its full potential as a centre of excellence. As Head of the fledgling Biology Department, he developed a broad-based Biology undergraduate programme which was quite distinct from the narrower Botany, Zoology and Biochemistry degrees which were then on offer at the Mona and St. Augustine campuses.  At a time when Cave Hill was strongly focused on teaching, Ted put a much-needed emphasis on the development of research capacity, ensuring that all new staff members developed their own research programmes as a priority. In the appointment of new staff he was more concerned about the calibre of the appointee than that their area of expertise was an exact match for a vacancy. He also saw the wisdom of appointing the best PhD graduates of the Department to academic posts and so build sustainable capacity. Under his guidance the Biological Sciences discipline flourished as the standard bearer for the Campus. Ted set high standards for all of us who worked with him and as a leader nurtured the development of his staff. He was a great mentor and facilitator and provided the resources and encouragement that helped us all develop our talents. He maintained a keen interest in the welfare of his students and even at the height of his administrative career continued to teach undergraduate courses and supervise graduate students researching a range of microbiological problems relevant to Barbados and the Caribbean. An intellectual and musically talented man, he was knowledgeable, entertaining and great company. We will miss his wry sense of humour and the genuine interest he always showed in the development of the Campus, in our careers and in our lives. Amazingly, these qualities never forsook him during his long illness. May he rest in peace.

Professor Winston Tinto

It is with profound sadness that I learnt of the passing of Professor Mathison. We have had a very good working relationship from the first time I came to Cave Hill. Indeed my present laboratory is in the Biology area and this was possible thanks to the agreement of PROFESSOR MATHISON. He has contributed tremendously to the development of the  Biological Sciences at Cave Hill and his contribution will forever be engraved in the Department. May he rest in peace. 


 Dr Suzanne N. Workman

I was saddened by the news of the passing of Prof. George Mathison.

Prof will be remembered for his many contributions to Biology, and particularly Microbiology, at the Cave Hill Campus and for his service to the Faculty and Department in several capacities: Dean, Head, research supervisor of many and mentor.

In addition, he was one of the founding members and the first President of the Barbadian Society for Microbiology, and was an active supporter of its activities until poor health prohibited such.

I will certainly remember his blunt humour, that when combined with the British accent, was a recipe for hilarity; the somewhat mischievous gleam in his eyes and slight smirk on delivery of a sharp, witty remark; and his many stories that were often a welcome adjunct to his presentations and lectures.

On a more personal note, he played a very significant role in shaping my career. In 1999, he took a gamble asking me to design and teach a course in Mycology, and that marked my beginning in teaching. He also provided the much appreciated avenue for me to conduct research in a field that was my true passion and I joined the group of PhD students under his supervision. I am where I am to a large extent because of these opportunities.

On the few occasions that I visited Prof in recent times, his remarkable humour was still very much intact, but his health had clearly declined and he was ready to go.
May he rest in peace!

Dr. Lyndon Waterman

Professor Mathison was Head of Department and my lecturer in Microbiology while I was a undergraduate student. He was also Head of Department and Dean while I was a postgraduate student and in the initial years of my appointment as a lecturer.

As a lecturer, he was highly knowledgeable in his area with a passion for his discipline. In addition he was erudite on a range of subjects and touched on many topical matters in his lectures. He also demonstrated the rigorous application of the scientific method in his classes. By his example he stimulated his students’ ability to look at the world through the eyes of a scientist. He frequently had time to discuss scientific and non-scientific matters with students, showing us the purpose and rewards of intelligence, especially when applied to science. He encouraged students to believe that a career in scientific teaching and research was a viable option in a society that focussed on traditional professions for science graduates.

I also remember him as an Administrator with compassion for students while seeking to maintain the academic standards of the Department and Faculty. In his last days he still displayed his humour and was not cheerless, despite his illness. I will treasure my memories of his wit and his wisdom.

Cynthia Spooner, Department of Biological & Chemical Sciences

Professor George Mathison, in his capacity as Head of the Department of Biology and Dean of the Faculty contributed greatly to the advancement and development of the Faculty and the University as a whole.  As one of the secretaries in the Departmental Office, we enjoyed a very cordial and professional relationship, one which I would always treasure.

Since his retirement, I visited him occasionally - he was always welcoming and looked forward to my next visit.  During one of my visits he requested that I sit with him and record aspects of his life for future documentation.

I take this opportunity to extend my condolence to his family and close relatives in this time of grief.  May he rest in peace.


Kay Browne, Administrative Assistant

I worked with Professor Mathison, first as Secretary in the Faculty of Natural Sciences and later as Administrative Assistant in the renamed Faculty of Science and Technology and I found him to be a very compassionate and cordial administrator who was interested in the progress of his students and staff.  He was very instrumental in the growth of the Faculty over the nine years that he was Dean and I enjoyed working with him.  I know that I have grown tremendously because of his guidance as he administered the affairs of the Faculty. 

I will surely miss his calls to confirm things that he had read or heard in the news about the Faculty because he was still very interested in our progress.

Professor, even though you may be gone in body your spirit will remain with us for a very long time.  May you rest in peace.


Louis Chinnery, Lecturer

I joined the Cave Hill campus in April 1976. In those days, you needed five academic staff to become a department and I was the fifth. Biology graduated from the Department of Chemistry where it had started as a poor cousin under Prof. Binks. The growing pains included a year when three of us taught the full Biology programme. The Department entered its teens with the arrival of George 'Ted' Mathison in 1981 as its first full professor to fill the Department's established chair (Cave Hill had borrowed a Professor from the University of Reading for the first three years of advanced Biology teaching - 1975-78). Ted brought with him experience from the University of London and Africa.


Ted led the Department through the turbulent teen years with a small staff, growing student numbers and his desire to encourage academic research and postgraduate research training. During this time, throughout his tenure as Head and Faculty Dean and into his retirement years, he provided help, encouragement, mentorship and support for all of the academic members of the Department. I benefitted in many ways from his wisdom for which I am eternally grateful.


When biology was reunited with chemistry, it was Ted who insisted that the new Department should be called Biological and Chemical Sciences to reflect how the old chemistry offspring, now a mature adult, had outgrown its parent in student numbers, number of courses, postgraduate degrees awarded and research output (all of which bore his finger-prints).


When I became Head, I often thought of how Ted would have dealt with the crisis de jour. Unfortunately, it was during my headship that Ted decided that he was no longer fit enough to continue teaching his popular final year course in immunobiology.


Ted was an academic, administrator, musician and raconteur who contributed much to the lives of thousands of students, academic colleagues and support staff in the Department and Faculty. He will be missed by many.


Professor Julia Horrocks

I saw Professor George “Ted” Mathison for the last time at his home several months ago.  He had good knowledge of medical science and so was well aware that his condition was deteriorating.  Despite this, he asked about the Department with the same interest that he has always shown.  By his side was the kind of scruffy dog that only Ted could love; an animal that had strayed into his yard, recognized Ted as its salvation, and stayed devotedly at his bedside.  This was the last of several dogs that he had owned over the course of the thirty five years he lived in Barbados, and which I remember he had lovingly transported to and from the beach in his cars; with not a care for the seats or carpets!   He arrived in Barbados a few years after I did and, from the outset, he was a man on a mission - to develop the Department of Biology as Head and later, as Dean, the Faculty.  He brought invaluable experience from his time at the University of London and shared it with us all in those early years.  He was particularly keen to develop research capacity in the Department, which up to that point had largely functioned as a teaching facility.  During his headship, he gave people full rein to develop their areas of research, but he expected a lot in return from his colleagues and did not suffer fools gladly.  He gently reminded me on more than one occasion that one of my UK referees for my application for my Ph.D. at Cave Hill was not all that complimentary about the effort I had made as an undergraduate and that he expected more of me!  In seminars, he always asked the thought-provoking questions. Indeed, I remember him asking me a very challenging one during my Ph.D. defense that was not at all welcome at the time!   My lasting memories of Ted are much happier than those of that last visit; memories of a man who could entertain those around him with facts and stories in equal measure. He had a great sense of irony, laced with wit, and I remember many a function when his presence lent a welcome break from the usual topics of conversation.  There was nothing that Ted knew nothing about.  He was able to contribute to any conversation and to do so with impressive content and often significant impact.  My condolences to his family and friends, and to Ted, rest in peace.


Professor Hazel A. Oxenford 

Professor George ‘Ted’ Mathison arrived to take up the Head of Biology shortly after my arrival in Barbados - as a PhD student working under the supervision of Wayne Hunte.  He brought strong leadership to the Department and attracted new staff in a range of disciplines, making it an exciting and vibrant place to study.   He set high standards for his staff and graduate students and provided the encouragement and support to succeed.  I will never forget one day early on, when my scholarship funds had been so eroded by the time they had passed through the Jamaican exchange rate that I had nothing left to live on after paying my rent – Ted’s reaction when I related my sorry tale was to dig into his pocket, quite literally, and hand me some cash, telling me to get on with my studies and stop whining! That was Ted – tangible solutions and an unwavering focus on academic achievement for all of us.  He was always empathetic, fair and immensely entertaining with his broad knowledge of just about any subject and his quick wit that we all enjoyed. I feel very lucky to have grown as an academic under his leadership, and eventually to work in the faculty that he strengthened and managed as Dean.   My sincere condolences to his family and many close friends.


Alvin Cummins, Former Student

It was a great shock to hear of the passing of Professor Mathison.


Professor Emeritus Ted Mathison,must have died a disappointed man. in my failure to have obtained my PhD., for I exemplified the faith he had in those he accepted into his programmes.  His faith in his students, his understanding of what motivated them, and his guidance provided them with the mentorship to overcome the challenges of research, without all the tools needed. He succeeded where many did not dare to go. 


 Prof. was easy to talk to, he made himself easily available and approachable, and it was unfortunate that ill health forced him to leave Cave Hill when he did. But even after this he was still available and approachable to his former students. The university and the Department of Biological and Chemical Sciences lost a great deal when he left the university.


May he rest in peace.

Victor Cooke, Former Campus Bursar

For several years the Cave Hill Campus had tried to introduce Biology as a new development. The triennial estimates were constructed under four broad headings; Recurrent, continuing to do what was already approved and in train; Consolidation, seeking to do what was in train with more umph; New Developments, introducing a new subject. The fourth heading used to be capital expenditure.


For six years the Campus had tried to introduce Biology, with cogent arguments as to why Cave Hill should be the first Campus at UWI to teach Biology and to set up avenues for research. The Bursary felt the pain of this University Grants Committee rejection and with creative imagination proceeded to provide funding for the teaching of Biology as a part time off budget subject. The teaching of Accounting at Cave Hill was also introduced using similar creative funding.


Dr. Euna Moore started the ball rolling. The numbers proved most encouraging. Professor George “Ted” Mathison was recruited in 1981 and the rest is history. Ted fell in love with Barbados. The challenge of developing Biology, teaching and research, became the centre point of his life. He devoted all of the remaining years of his academic life to the Cave Hill Campus, not only in teaching and research but also to administration as Head of Department, Deputy Dean and Dean of the Faculty of Natural Science.


The introduction of Biology needed to have its own teaching and research space. Since the Bursary ‘created’ the teaching of it we also had to create the space. The multifaceted Superintendent of Works, Mr. Jim Hall, designed and built the Unit which still houses Biology, teaching, office and laboratory space. The design, building and everything was done in house at tremendous savings. Incidentally the first departmental secretary, was Cynthia Holdip, now Cynthia Hall.


“Ted” endeared himself to the whole Campus. In addition to his intellectual ability, he contributed his musical talents as well. He was an organist of no mean ability. At Campus functions where grace had to be said, Ted was the go to person saying the grace in Latin!! After Profs. retirement, he maintained a very close interest in the affairs, not only of his Faculty, but all of the Campus.


Cave Hill Campus is, I am sure, eternally grateful for the yeomen contribution which Professor George “Ted” Mathison made. We shall not only miss his scholarship, but his humour and his jeu d’esprit. My condolences to his family, colleagues and all who mourn his passing. May he rest in peace, and light perpetual shine upon him.


Peter has a new organist!!



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