Editor’s note: This is an excerpt of an interview. For full interview visit nahpusa.org
Dr. C. Reynold Verret, a native son of Haiti, was recently named president of Xavier University. Get a more intimate look at his road to success and thoughts on how to achieve a bigger and better future for Haiti.
What led you to pursue your career?
It was passion that led me to my career; passion that was nurtured and not allowed to wither.
I am forever grateful to those who fed those small flames. I have always loved science and its methods of discovery. Even at a young age, I dismantled toys and discarded devices seeking to comprehend their inner workings. The toys were most often mine but at times they were those of my siblings. Nurturing this inner passion was the encouragement of my parents. They taught us to value all learning and knowledge, whether in the art and letters, in politics, history, biology or astronomy.
How were you able to get started?
Perhaps the phrase from Eugene Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire applies — “ I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
There have been many who assisted in the development of my career by encouraging or showing the way. Among these were the Jesuits in Brooklyn, who welcomed my mother and her children. Most prominent among them was Fr. Anthony Paone, S.J. who showed the way to best educational institutions that Brooklyn has ever see — Brooklyn Prep. There our minds were challenged and prodded. I encountered other stellar mentors at Columbia University. The memory of Cy Lenvinthal, I continue to treasure. At MIT, I encountered great professors like Chris Walsh, Ellen Henderson, Gene Brown, Mary Roberts, Phil Sharp, Heman Eisen, and most especially the late Gobind Khorana.
What do you think can be done for Haiti to develop financial assistance without having to be reliant upon others in times of crisis?
First, restoring the Haitian environment, especially reforestation. A reforestation effort also generates much needed employment in Haiti. This requires alternative sources of energy to avoid another cycle of deforestation and also development industry, in which the people have a stake.
Do you believe a campaign highlighting the positives of Haiti would be worth exploring to take away the stigma of it being impoverished?
Yes, but not in isolation. There must be concrete efforts to mitigate poverty.