Professor Gerald C. Lalor – Man of vision

 

Professor the Hon. Gerald C. Lalor, OJ, CD, FJSST – affectionately known as “Bunny” – is a man of vision whose contribution to the development of Jamaica in particular and countries of The University of the West Indies (UWI) in general, spans many years and a variety of areas.

Professor Lalor belongs to that generation of West Indians of whom it can be said that both excellence in output and readiness for public service are second nature. They were early beneficiaries of the then newly established native institution of higher learning designed to provide for a still emerging society, trained minds and refined and sensitive spirits attuned to unstinting effort in making not only Jamaica, but the entire region better.

He attended Kingston College, from which he emerged with the requisite certification to gain access to the then University College of the West Indies, from which he graduated with a B.Sc. degree in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. At that time, having no thought of a special career in academia, he went to work at the West Indies Chemical Works, then the world’s largest manufacturer of logwood dyes and where, within a six-year time span, he rose to the position of Chief Chemist.

Recognition of his outstanding abilities in his chosen field led to his employment at UWI in 1960 as Assistant Lecturer in Chemistry. He rose quickly through the ranks of Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Reader, to become Professor of Chemistry in 1969. He served as Head of the Department of Chemistry at UWI from 1969 to 1972. Professor Lalor was promoted to Pro-Vice-Chancellor in 1974 and was Principal of the Mona Campus from 1991 to 1996.

During his tenure in these posts, Professor Lalor’s name came to be associated with almost every innovative and creative activity within UWI and especially on the Mona Campus. The panegyric of praises needed to highlight all his work would be far too long, so instead we touch on just a few areas.

In addition to his own research on reaction kinetics, he has successfully supervised candidates reading for Masters and Doctorate degrees, all of whom have subsequently “done him proud”. He spearheaded the establishment of the Biotechnology Centre and work in Environmental Sciences. And who can forget “Lalor’s Lake” on the right as one enters the Mona Campus? Or, who can forget experiences of watching him make ice-cream or explain the process in simple terms to the wide-eyed 9 and 10 year-old potential scientists who were regular attendees of the now defunct Science Learning Centre, the establishment of which he had fought for the on the Mona campus?

He initiated the computerization of the Mona Campus and its links to the Internet. Having successfully installed a Slow Poke Nuclear Reactor and monitored its operations over the years, he is currently the Director-General of the International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences (ICENS) on the Mona Campus, the main programmes of which are in environmental geochemistry and its application to agriculture, the environment, and natural resources.

In addition to his work in science and technology, Professor Lalor’s other interests have included the development of graduate programmes, the development of programmes for the deaf, the education of the handicapped, and microcomputer applications including retrieval of information. He has served on almost every standing UWI committee and on many Jamaican government, Caribbean, and international committees involving Science, Metrication, and Education, and including the Electoral Advisory Committee.

Professor Lalor’s work in distance education began in the early 1970s when the only thing that most people knew about distance education was the name “Wolsey Hall”. Recognizing the potential of the then emerging telecommunication technologies to serve the information, communication and educational needs of the region, in 1978 he initiated the first experiment at UWI in the use of satellite communications. Project Satellite, as it was called, was a two-month demonstration of the use of satellite technology in education and public service. Working with a small but very dedicated group of persons that included Mrs. Alma Mock Yen, Mr. Tony Walling, and Dr. Heloise Lewis, videoconferencing was done between UWI and University of South Pacific in the Fiji Islands.

The success of Project Satellite gave rise to the Caribbean Regional Communications Study (CARCOST) project, which he directed from 1979 to 1982. This was a feasibility study to determine if, and how, modern telecommunications could contribute to university programmes and outreach. The CARCOST report formed the basis of the 1982 UWI Distance Teaching Experiment (UWIDITE), funded by USAID. UWIDITE linked the countries that support UWI by an interactive, audio-graphic teleconferencing network, which was used for interactive distance teaching, outreach and professional services, and for administrative purposes. UWIDITE soon became a household word especially to people in the Eastern Caribbean, synonymous with university education. Professor Lalor directed UWIDITE until 1996, when its operations were incorporated into the UWI Distance Education Centre (UWIDEC). UWIDITE was both visible and highly successful. It won the 1984 Gleaner Award for being "likely to have a most dramatic impact on the quality and improvement of life, not only in Jamaica but in the entire Caribbean, enhancing the education of the people of the region."
His contribution to the development of distance education extends beyond the region, as he was a member of the Commonwealth Secretariat Working Group on Distance Education, which gave rise to the Commonwealth of Learning.
Professor Lalor has given many speeches on distance education and, in addition to the major project reports, counts among his long list of some 83 publications on scientific matters, "Possibilities for University Education in an Age of Electronic Revolution", in Science and Public Policy, 1984.

Professor Lalor’s many honours and awards include the Order of Jamaica, Commander of the Order of Distinction, the Gleaner Annual Honour Award for UWIDITE and the Institute of Jamaica’s Gold Musgrave Medal. He is a Fellow of the Third World Academy of Sciences, the Caribbean Academy of Sciences, and the Jamaican Society of Scientists and Technologists, this latter being rare as, to date, there have only been two Fellows and the maximum number at any one time is five.

And now, on this day 25 th of October 2002, the Executive and Members of the Jamaican Association for Distance and Open Learning, are pleased to invite you, Gerald Lalor, to become the First Honorary Member of JADOL in recognition of your visionary and innovative work in distance education.

 

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