Earthquake-ravaged Haiti will benefit from part of the proceeds from the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) fundraising gala, which was held for the first time in Toronto, Canada last Saturday (February 27).
The event, held at the Four Seasons Hotel, was a resounding success, with a large turnout of members of academia, diplomatic corps, government, business, professionals and community leaders, despite a heavy snowstorm.
Patron of the event and Chairman of CI Mutual Funds and Chancellor of Ryerson University, Dr. G. Raymond Chang, paid tribute to the late Vice Chancellor Emeritus of UWI, Professor Rex Nettleford. “What a brilliant man! He has left an enormous void and as our Miss Lou would have said, ‘walk good’ my friend,” said the Chancellor.
(From left) University of the West Indies (UWI) Vice Chancellor Awardee, Jean Augustine; newly appointed High Commissioner to Canada, Sheila Sealy Monteith; Mayor of Toronto, David Miller; Consul General to Toronto, George Ramocan and Mrs. Lola Ramocan, share a moment at the UWI fundraising gala, which was held last Saturday night (Feb. 27) in Toronto, Canada.
Dr. Chang pointed out that the gala theme: ‘Celebrate, Support, Inspire’ is appropriate as “we are celebrating the achievements of our distinguished honourees, we are supporting opportunities for UWI students, and we are here to inspire and are inspired by the greatness that we know education can achieve as it is the great equalizer.”
Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor, Hon. David Onley, in his remarks, said that Caribbean people have contributed immensely to “the cultural dynamic that defines modern Canada.”
“Whether it’s in sports, business, academics, the arts, politics, or the media, to mention just a few, Canadians of Caribbean origin make up one of the largest non-European ethnic groups in Canada. The struggle by early Caribbean immigrants against racism, employment, education and accommodation, has led to human rights advances that have benefited all Canadians”, he stated.
Toronto’s Mayor, David Miller, said he is proud of the partnerships, which exist between Toronto and the Caribbean. “It’s a partnership not just of business, but it’s a partnership most of all based on friendship and mutual respect,” he noted.
Three sets of awards were handed out on the night – Luminary, Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor. The Luminary Award, given to “individuals of Caribbean heritage, who have made stellar contribution in their chosen fields, or persons, who have worked relentlessly to shine a global spotlight on Caribbean issues,” went to Dr. Harry Belafonte and Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, Hon. Mayann Francis.
Addressing the audience via video linkup, Mr. Belafonte described UWI as a worthy institution and said he was touched by the award. “The institution has served thousands and thousands of young people in the Caribbean region. It is an institution that has made a huge difference in the successes the region has experienced ever since the advent of the independence of so many of the islands,” he said.
Ms. Francis, who is only the second woman to be appointed in her post, dedicated her award to her parents. “Their blood runs through my veins and their faith and values are the flesh and bones of who I am. I stand on their shoulders. They hoped their children would understand the value of education, service, hard work and faith in God. I wish they were here this evening so I could be embraced by their love and happiness,” she said.
The Vice Chancellor’s Award, which recognises Caribbean-Canadians “who have contributed significantly to UWI, have achieved extraordinary success in their respective fields, or who are rising stars in their organisations,” was presented to Ontario’s first Fairness Commissioner, the first black woman to be elected to Canada’s Parliament and the former Minister of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women, Grenadian-born Hon. Jean Augustine; University of Guelph professor, novelist and poet laureate, Trinidadian-born Professor Dionne Brand; internationally acclaimed author, Barbadian-born Mr. Austin Clarke; educator, founder and past president of the UWI Alumni Association (Toronto chapter), Jamaican-born Ms. Maud Fuller.
Other recipients of this award were physician, teacher and first director of the Division of Internal Medicine at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, Jamaican-born Dr. Herbert Ho Ping Kong; broadcaster, educator, orator and former Guyanese High Commissioner to Canada, Robert Moore; and Calypsonian extraordinaire, Trinidadian-born, David Rudder.
The Chancellor’s Award, for “companies or organisations, which have contributed significantly to UWI or who have advanced the well-being of people living in the Caribbean”, went to Project for the Advancement of Childhood Education (PACE) Canada; Royal Bank of Canada (RBC); and Scotiabank.
Those in attendance included former Governor-General Sir Kenneth Hall and Lady Hall; Jamaica’s newly appointed High Commissioner to Canada, Sheila Sealy Monteith; Jamaica’s Consul General to Toronto, George Ramocan and Dr. Lola Ramocan; Dean of the Consular Corps and Consul General of Trinidad and Tobago, Michael Lashley; Consul General of Antigua and Barbuda, Madeline Blackman; Consul General of Grenada, Jenny Gumbs; and UWI Chancellor, Sir George Alleyne; Vice Chancellor Emeritus, Sir Alister McIntyre; and Chancellor Emeritus, Sir Shridath Ramphal.
The annual benefit gala raises financial support for the 62-year-old institution’s Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships for deserving students.