The Bishop Tharp Business and Technology Institute (BTI) was officially inaugurated at a ceremony on Sunday, April 2, 2006 in Les Cayes, Haiti. The school first opened in September 2005 and provides university-level courses such as business management, computer technology, statistics and English.
Approximately 250 people attended the inauguration and dedication including Robert W. Radtke, Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) President, the Rt. Rev. Jean Zaché Duracin, Bishop of the Diocese of Haiti, Mark Spina, Director for ERD, clergy from the Diocese of Haiti, former ERD board members, as well as BTI board members, students and their families. The institute is named after the late Rt. Rev. Robert G. Tharp, former Bishop of the Diocese of East Tennessee, ERD board chair and friend of the Diocese of Haiti.
"The idea of a Diocese of Haiti/ERD partnership focusing on post-secondary business education began in 1999," said Radtke. "Bishop Duracin, ERD board members, Episcopal lay leaders with mission involvements in southwest Haiti and staff began to discuss ways to use resources to invest in an education strategy that drew on local community support and involvement, church presence and a commitment to practical read world training and skill-building," he said. "Today, BTI is educating 180 students who will soon be business managers and owners, helping stimulate the local Les Cayes economy," said Radtke.
The celebration began with a Eucharist at Saint Sauveur's Parish in Les Cayes with Bishop Duracin serving as chief celebrant. A homily was given by the Rev. Kenol Rock, the parish's rector. A gospel choir, comprised of 25 BTI students, sang, "O Happy Day" at the celebration. Then a procession led by Bishop Duracin and other clergy went from the church through the streets of Les Cayes to the BTI campus.
The inauguration ceremony and dedication included remarks from Burton Joseph, Interim Director of BTI, Radtke and BTI board members. Bishop Duracin and clergy consecrated the five classrooms, computer laboratory, future library and administrative building.
Rita Redfield, former ERD board member, read a message of support and remembrance from Ann Tharp, window of Bishop Tharp. "Perhaps there are those among you who met Bob early in life and are here today on your journey at this institute," said Redfield. "If Bishop Tharp were here today, he would challenge your sense of adventure and he would share with you his conviction that life is a holy dance," she read.
"BTI's opening and this ceremony is a testament to the determination of Bishop Duracin and his dedicated staff, ERD's partnership with the diocese and the strength of the Haitian people themselves to pursue post-secondary business education opportunities for young people in southwest Haiti," said Radtke.
Ultimately, BTI will create a pool of skilled workers equipped to start their own business or join the local workforce in Les Cayes, Haiti's third largest city.
"BTI has made a real difference in Les Cayes," said Louis Roosevelt, a student at BTI. "I am seeking opportunities to study and further my education," said Roosevelt.