George Maxwell Richards (Date of Birth: 1st Dec 1931)
Trinidad and Tobago Icons Vol 2
The President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, His Excellency Professor George Maxwell Richards TC, CMT, PhD, is a distinguished academic in the field of chemical engineering and an Honorary Fellow of the world-renowned Institution of Chemical Engineers of the United Kingdom.
He was born in San Fernando, Trinidad on 1st December, 1931 and received his primary education at the San Fernando E.C. School, where he won a Government Exhibition scholarship to Queen’s Royal College in Port-of-Spain. He obtained his Bachelor of Science (BSc) and Master of Science (MSc) in Chemical Engineering at the University of Manchester in 1955 and 1957 respectfully. He later obtained his doctorate at the University of Cambridge in 1963.
He entered the world of work in 1950 as a Staff Trainee at the United British Oilfields of Trinidad Ltd, a precursor to Shell Trinidad Ltd. Then, as a young graduate, he gained professional experience in the petroleum industry, working in several managerial positions at Shell Trinidad Ltd. He left in 1965 to pursue a career in academia at the University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine. He served as Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering, and then Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, before ascending to the ranks of Deputy Principal, Acting Principal, Pro-Vice Chancellor and finally, Principal in 1985. He held this position until November 1996.
In both his academic and administrative capacities, Professor Richards played a vital role in the development of the university’s recognised capability in engineering, a legacy which lives on today. He was one of the pioneers who built the Department of Chemical Engineering, establishing strong links with the Institution of Chemical Engineers and ensuring that the department’s programmes were internationally accredited. This was, at the time, a unique distinction for a university in a developing country. He developed the department’s capability in process industries, which has benefited Trinidad and Tobago and the region economically. Thanks to his vision and contribution, the Faculty of Engineering became a world-class centre of excellence whose graduates are in leadership positions throughout the region and abroad. In addition to these achievements, Professor Richards also offered his expertise to the boards of several key service organisations, and private and public companies and institutions.
In 2003, Professor Richards was elected President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. He has also retained an honorary role in academia, having been appointed Chancellor of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) in 2005. Professor Richards is the recipient of two of the country’s national awards – the Chaconia Medal (Gold) and the highest, the Trinity Cross – which were bestowed upon him in 1977 and 2003 respectively, in recognition of his outstanding achievements.
The University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) named him Alumnus of the Year 2003. Later that year, he also received the Certificate of Honorary Fellowship from the Institution of Chemical Engineers in recognition of the distinction he brought to the chemical engineering profession. He was elected to an Honorary Fellowship at Pembroke College, the University of Cambridge in 2004, and the Degree of Doctor of Letters was conferred on him by the University of Sheffield in 2005.