An icon in education. A true patriot. A committed servant of the people.
These were the superlatives used by family, friends and associates to describe former education minister Clive Pantin, hours after his passing.
Pantin, 84, died around 1 am yesterday at his Anna Street, Woodbrook home after a prolonged illness.
His son, Bernard, a former television presenter and the first of Pantin’s five children, told Sunday Newsday his father had a strong faith in God and seemed ready to depart this life.
“So, going to meet his Maker was a fulfilment of a life,” Bernard said.
“His view of life was that you were on Earth to do things for your God for the afterlife.”
Educated at Belmont Intermediate, for which he was extremely proud, and later, St Mary’s College, Port-of-Spain, Pantin graduated with degrees in French and Spanish from the University of Dublin, Ireland, in 1954.
He also obtained a Diploma in Education from the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica, prior to Trinidad and Tobago gaining Independence in 1962.
Pantin was part of a staunch Roman Catholic family who served this country with distinction for more than five decades.
His late brother, Anthony, who also passed away peacefully in 1999, was the country’s first local Archbishop. Another sibling, Gerard, also a priest, established the ground-breaking Service Volunteered For All (Servol) along with famed cricketer/coach Wes Hall, in the early 1970s. Servol was intended to cater to underprivileged youths in east Port-of-Spain communities. Servol has since expanded its reach and is still going strong.
Pantin’s sister, Rose, a nun of the St Joseph of Cluny Order, died on August 4, 2012. His other siblings include Helen, Patricia, Michael, Monica, Geoffrey and Ronald. Geoffrey and Ronald are deceased.
A former principal of Fatima College, Pantin, too, created history in 1972 when he became the first layman to hold the post of principal at a Catholic secondary school run by a religious order (Holy Ghost Fathers).
There, he left an indelible mark on both the institution and its students, many of whom speak reverently about his contribution.
“In many respects, people would consider him to be an educator because, obviously, he spent 27 years at Fatima and ten as principal and then four years as Minister of Education,” Bernard said of his father’s legacy. Bernard said his father was also a humanitarian.
“He founded FEEL (Foundation for the Enrichment and Enhancement of Life) 25 years ago, so I would say that he was as much a humanitarian as an educator because he was always looking to find the good in people in terms of helping them in any way that he could.” Bernard said his father effortlessly straddled the fields of education and sport.
“Not a lot of people would know this, it has been mentioned fleetingly but he did play for the national football and hockey teams.
“But it was not like today where you want to be a professional. That was just a part of life, of growing up and using his talent.”
Bernard said while teaching at Fatima College in the 1960s, his father served as sports master, leading the school to an Intercol victory in 1965.
During the 1960s Pantin also became involved in the Wes Hall Youth Cricket League.
“The league threw out a lot of players who eventually went on to play for Trinidad in the 1970s,” Bernard said. “It was an opportunity to really get involved and make cricket more national and to get youngsters more exposed to cricket at the youth level.”
A decade later, when he became principal, Pantin devoted himself completely to developing Fatima College.
“The people who went to school in those days would look back and feel very proud of the kinds of things that Fatima did in those days.”
Bernard told Sunday Newsday that Fatima College, under his father’s leadership, was one of the first schools to have a language lab and audiovisual centre.
He recalled his father was “always on the go, doing things in education, sport and helping people.”
Yesterday, tributes to Pantin flowed. Education Minister Anthony Garcia, who was also a former principal of Fatima College, described Pantin as an icon in education.
“He has made a tremendous contribution to education, first by being principal of one of the foremost colleges for boys –Fatima College– and then as minister of education,” he told Sunday Newsday.
Garcia said Pantin, who served as chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Education, also left a legacy of commitment to service.
He said members of the school’s Old Boys Association were expected to host a tournament in Pantin’s honour.
“I am sure all teachers and students, all who had something to do with Fatima College would remember that he was one of the outstanding educators in Trinidad and Tobago.”
Fatima College principal Fr Gregory Augustine, who was a student when Pantin was principal in the 1970s, recalled he had taken a personal interest in his students.
“He would call you by your name and that is something that inspired me as a teacher,” said Augustine.
“One of the central things for me as a teacher is that I have to know my students. It is really from Clive that I got that.”
Saying Pantin was a simple man, who often walked from school to his Woodbrook home for lunch, Augustine described him as “a true patriot.”
He recalled that as principal, Pantin also became involved in the Woodbrook Action Committee.
“I remember one time they were digging up the streets to change a water hydrant and there were concerns and, as a citizen, he was involved to ensure things went well. He was very civic-minded.”
Augustine said these experiences prompted Pantin to enter the political arena during the term of the National Alliance for Reconstruction.
He recalled that at Fatima College, Pantin, apart from administrating, also taught Religion and French.
“He was not just a desk man, he was very much involved in the life of the school as a teacher.”
Augustine said Pantin would long be remembered by his students.
“I don’t think there is any Fatima fella who was under him who would not agree with that. He was revered and looked up to with great admiration.”
Pantin’s funeral service takes place at 11 am on Tuesday at St Theresa’s RC Church, Woodbrook.
Clive Pantin - husband, father, teacher, sportsman, community, sport and social activist, former Principal of Fatima College, founder of Foundation for the Enhancement and Enrichment of Life (FEEL) and a former Minister of Education - has passed away.
The news came this morning when his daughter took to social media to share that her father had died.
He was 84.
Pantin was the brother to late Archbishop Anthony Pantin, and came from a family that all devoted themselves to bettering the country and serving the Roman Catholic church.
Stay with Newsday for more as it becomes available.