Former president of Trinidad and Tobago Professor George Maxwell Richards was as genuine as they come. “I think he was an open book. What you saw that was him,” his daughter Maxine Richards told Newsday. Richards died at the Westshore Medical Centre on January 8.
He served as president from March 7, 2003 to March 17, 2013. He was a former principal of the University of the West Indies, St Augustine campus. The Richards patriarch leaves to mourn his wife Dr. Jean Ramjohn-Richards, son Dr. Mark Richards, Maxine, daughter-in-law Dr. Maryam Abdul-Richards, his brother Malcolm, and sisters Dorothy, Elsa and Charmian.
Mustering up enough courage to reminisce about her dad, Maxine tells said, “We are just numb. We were just in shock. We never expected it,” because he seemed to be in good health over the last few months.
Asked how the family was coping, she said, “Mom is not doing good and Mark, being the quiet person that he is, is keeping his grief to himself.”
She described who her father had been to her.
“He was an amazing father, I couldn’t ask for anything else. He supported me in everything that I did. I just needed to say I wanted to do this and he was there 100 per cent for me.” She recalled the fun times she had playing mas with him and her mom, and partying together. “There was never anything that I asked him of that he wouldn’t give. That goes for Mark as well.”
But she said he was not all about fun and games all the time. “When we were growing up he was very strict when it came to our school work. But after all of that, when we got big, we just developed a different relationship with him. We travelled together.” Losing him, she said, was difficult accept. “This is very hard.” On behalf of her family she expressed appreciation for all the outpouring of love they’ve been receiving since his passing.
The family and the government are planning a State funeral for the former head of state. Maxine said she was expected to chat with protocol specialist Lenore Dorset yesterday to begin mapping out the funeral details, which she said will probably take place next week.
As TT says farewell to the former president, Newsday gives readers the opportunity to take a walk down memory lane with the man many fondly called “Max” and his down to earth demeanour for which he was well known from his love for and involvement in Carnival to his support for sporting heroes, enjoying family time to consoling grieving friends.
WHO WAS GEORGE MAXWELL RICHARDS?
Richards was born in San Fernando on December 1, 1931. He was a student at Queen’s Royal College in Port of Spain. From 1950 to 1951, he worked for the United British Oilfields of Trinidad (precursor to Shell Trinidad Ltd.) at Point Fortin. He received a scholarship from them to study chemical engineering. Richards then attended the University of Manchester (UMIST), where he took a BEng degree (1955) and an MEng degree (1957). He subsequently obtained a PhD degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cambridge (Pembroke).
Richards returned to Trinidad and worked for Shell Trinidad Ltd from 1957 to 1965 before joining the Department of Chemical Engineering at the UWI. From 1980 to 1985 Richards served as pro-vice-chancellor and deputy principal of the University. He served as acting principal of the St. Augustine Campus from 1984 to 1985, and was confirmed in the position in 1985. He retired as principal in 1996 but continued to lecture at UWI.
Richards also served on the board of several companies, including Trintoc (now Petrotrin), the National Gas Company and the Trinidad Publishing Company.