An esteemed historian, author, educator, Roman Catholic nun and an Emeritus Professor, Mary Noel Menezes has expertly researched and published extensively on aspects of Guyana’s history. Prof. Menezes holds a PhD in History from the University of London, conferred in 1973, she previously earned her Masters degree in Latin American History from Georgetown University, Washington, DC in 1965 and a Bachelors degree in History from the College Misericordia (now the Misericordia University) in 1964. Prof. Menezes is also a trained educator, having obtained a Diploma in Education with Honours from the St. Joseph’s Training College in Jamaica in 1952. Within the ambit of religious service, in 1947, she joined the Roman Catholic Sisters of Mercy and entered their community in Dallas, Pennsylvania, USA and by 1950 she took her vows as a as a Religious Sister (Nun).
In 1967, she joined the University of Guyana as a Lecturer within the Department of History and during her tenure she inaugurated the first masters degree programme at that University, a M.A. in Guyanese and West Indian History. She served the University until her retirement in 1990 and she subsequently returned in the years 1994-1996 to conduct the research methodology course, which she had pioneered. She is the author of numerous journal articles and seven major books: British Policy Towards the Amerindians in British Guiana, 1803-1873; The Amerindians in Guyana 1803-1873: A Documentary History; Scenes from the History of the Portuguese in Guyana; The Portuguese of Guyana: A Study in Culture and Conflict; Goodall’s Sketches of Amerindian Tribes; The Amerindians and the Europeans and How To Do Better Research.
Prof. Menezes has achieved several firsts, in 1978 she was elected as the first female president of the Association of Caribbean Historians and in 1980 she was appointed as the first Professor of History at the University of Guyana. As a religious sister, she has served as the Regional Superior of the Sisters of Mercy in Guyana at various periods and as the administrator of the St. John Bosco Boy’s Orphanage from 1968-2003. Prof. Menezes has been a continuous visitor from 1970 to the Mahaica Hospital to tend to those who were stricken with Hansen’s disease and in 2000 she formed the Mercy Boys’ Home, a residence built in Georgetown for those boys over the age of 16 who have left the aforementioned orphanage and have nowhere to live.
Prof. Menezes’ outstanding work has been acknowledged with the conferral of academic and national awards throughout the years. In 1982, she was bestowed with the Golden Arrow of Achievement by the Government of Guyana, while in 1983 the Misericordia University, her alma mater conferred on her the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. In 1989 she received the Outstanding Guyanese Women Award, while in 2005, the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus conferred on her the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws (LL.D). In 2008 Prof. Menezes was bestowed with the Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, Pennsylvania, USA, while in 2009 the University of Guyana installed her as an Emeritus Professor of History, and in 2015 the Government of Guyana bestowed on her the Order of Roraima.
Source: J. Collins-Gonsalves. 2016. Mary Noel Menezes. In Heroes of our nation: fifty nation builders of Guyana. Georgetown: Government of Guyana.