A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. ~Henry Brooks Adams.
This statement is the quintessence of Rex Nettleford’s life as a teacher. Though he was many things: a dancer, cultural ambassador, international scholar, teacher, orator and critic, Rex Nettleford was the text book definition of a teacher
Patriotism is not short and frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime,” as quoted by former US Presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson, portraits the life of Rex Nettleford. Professor the Honorable Ralston Milton ‘Rex’ Nettleford started out from humble backgrounds.
When he graduated from Cornwall College, he was awarded a scholarship to attend the prestigious University of the West Indies (UWI) at the Mona Campus in Jamaica. Affiliated with the University for over fifty years, he pursued a Bachelor’s Degree in History, being awarded the Rhodes scholarship and first class honors; he attended Oxford University as a post graduate Rhodes Scholar in politics.
In 1959, he returned to Jamaica and was made Staff Tutor for the Eastern Caribbean and headed the Extra-Mural Development Department at UWI by Sir Phillip Sherlock, the founding father of said college. In 1962 he founded the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica, one of his many visions, which aided in fusing traditional Jamaican dance, rituals and music with fine European ballet. In 1964, he went on to found the Trade Union Education Institute on the UWI campus which sought to articulate the interests, improve and unite the underprivileged.
Awarded the Order of Merit in 1975 for his contributions to nation building, he was appointed Deputy Vice Chancellor in 1998, but once retired in 2004; he continued to serve as Professor of Cultural Studies, Vice Chancellor Emeritus as well as advisor to the current Vice Chancellor. The Order of the Caribbean Community for his commitment as an ambassador at the regional level was awarded to Professor Nettleford branding him an international cultural icon and archetypal citizen of the Caribbean.
His reign as a phenomenal icon to many came to an unfortunate end when he was admitted to the George Washington University Hospital after suffering a heart attack during his attendance at a fundraiser for his affiliated campus (UWI) which was held in Washington, DC and passed tragically on the 3rd of February, said to be four hours shy of his 77th birthday.
Ralston Milton’s talents kept him in high demand even up to his last days. With his culturally diverse life story and his litany of academic and artistic achievements, he did not fail to motivate countless individuals throughout the world from past to present. His contributions have been etched in the history of Jamaica and the world.