Sybil McLaughlin, the first living woman to be declared a National Hero, the first woman named Speaker of the House in the Cayman Islands and the first woman appointed as female clerk in the Commonwealth has been awarded an honorary doctorate.
Ms. McLaughlin was presented the award during the University College of the Cayman Islands’ commencement ceremony on Nov. 3 by the college’s president, Roy Bodden.
Livingston Smith, UCCI social sciences chairman and director of research and publications, said Ms. McLaughlin is a “lady of firsts” as he listed her accomplishment and services to society.
The biography supplied for Ms. McLaughlin at the ceremony states:
“Born 1928 in Grand Cayman, Ms. McLaughlin attended the George Town Primary School. She also attended the Baptist College in Managua, Nicaragua, where she graduated fluent in Spanish, as well as having completed a commercial course.
“In 1945, she returned to Grand Cayman and was employed in the Commissioner’s office as clerk-typist. She worked with the then clerk of the Legislative Assembly of Justices and Vestry, Ernest O. Panton.
“In 1959 when the Cayman Islands received its first written constitution, Ms. McLaughlin was appointed the first clerk of the Legislative Assembly and also the Executive Council, which is now termed Cabinet.
“Following further constitutional advancement, Ms. McLaughlin became the full-time clerk of the Legislative Assembly and the first woman to hold this post in the Commonwealth. In 1966, she served a six months’ attachment to the House of Commons in London and an attachment to the Northern Ireland Parliament in Stormont and in 1971 attachments to the parliaments of Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago.
“In her capacity as clerk of the Legislative Assembly, she became the first secretary to the Cayman Islands Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association from 1965 to 1984 and traveled extensively as secretary to delegations from the legislature, attending conferences within the Caribbean and other Commonwealth countries. She also traveled far and wide as a regional representative of the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association, a post to which she was elected at a conference in Zimbabwe in 1994.
“Ms. Mclaughlin was one of the founding members of the Business and Professional Women’s Club and the Rotary Sunrise Club. She was patron of the AIDS Foundation and is a lay pastor. She was also one of the founding members of the Cayman Islands Tennis Club. She was instrumental in the life of the Women’s Resource Centre, the Woman’s Crisis Centre and many other institutions.
“Among her outstanding achievements is her appointment as first Speaker of the Legislative Assembly on Feb. 15 1991. She served as Speaker until she retired in 1996. Soon after she was bestowed the country’s highest honor of National Hero in recognition of her contribution to Cayman’s parliamentary development as well as to community life in generally.”
After reading the above, Mr. Smith added: ”We pay tribute to Miss Sybil’s humanity, sense of dignity, integrity and warmth.”
He also said that a hero is one who has given his or her life to something bigger than his or herself.
“The Honorable National Hero has given hers to God, family, community and country, and through her the Cayman Islands has the memory of a great name and an inheritance for generations to come,” he said.
“In recognition of the contribution of the Honorable Sybil McLaughlin to the development and maturity of Cayman’s political system, its governance and legislative procedures, her unequaled public service generally and for her being an exemplar of the best of the Caymanian spirit, it is the signal honor of the University College of the Cayman Islands, to bestow on her the degree of Doctor of Laws (LL.Dr.) Honoris causa.” Mr. Smith concluded.