Remembering a Gentle Giant: Honouring Ambassador Richard Bernal

On the 30th of November, we would have celebrated the 74th birthday of a remarkable man, Professor, the Honourable Ambassador Richard M. Bernal, OJ. A year has passed since his untimely departure, leaving a legacy of profound impact in Jamaica, the Caribbean, and beyond. He is deeply missed by his family, the PJ Patterson Institute at the University of the West Indies (UWI), and all who knew him.

Ambassador Bernal, a ‘gentle giant,’ led a life rich in love and achievement. As a super loving husband, father, grandfather, and a distinguished role model, his life was a testament to excellence in various fields – academia, economics, diplomacy, and public service. His human touch was as remarkable as his professional accomplishments. He was not just a man of distinction; he was a man of warmth, kindness, and dedication, deeply involved in the lives of his family and those he worked with. His son, Brian, reflects on this beautifully:

His preparation, planning, determination put him in a position to do what he loved most, to care for his family, he loved to see us happy. He gave his family love, security, inspiration and support in every endeavour. In reading the many tributes that have come through email and in different formats that we received from his colleagues and his friends, it is obvious to me that he took great care of a great many other people that he worked with and interacted with daily. I think he liked to see them happy and liked to care for people.”

For the younger generation, Ambassador Bernal’s life is an exemplar of achieving greatness through discipline, hard work, and integrity. His career spanned roles such as Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Chief Negotiator as Permanent Representative to the OAS, Director at the Bank of Jamaica, Professor and Pro-Vice Chancellor at the UWI, and author of numerous books and articles.

The loss of Dr. Bernal was a monumental blow to the PJ Patterson Institute and all who knew him. His unique combination of professional expertise, philosophical insight, and personal warmth is irreplaceable. The Most Honourable PJ Patterson, Statesman in Residence at the Institute, expresses a shared sense of loss with his family that is beyond words.

The Institute notes with pleasure the UWI’s recent conferring of the Award for Outstanding Contribution Regionally/Internationally to Professor Bernal’s colossal legacy of excellence in academia and service at its 75th Anniversary Gala, held on the 24th of November.

As we honour Ambassador Bernal, his legacy continues to inspire us. The Institute would regard it as highly appropriate to create a scholarship program at UWI in his name, supporting gifted students who embody his dedication to service and excellence.

The memory of Professor Bernal is a beacon of love and inspiration. Forever missed, eternally treasured.

Contact: Mr Omar Ryan-