Excelsior Community College honours long-serving staff members
Paul H. Williams, Contributor
To culminate its 40th anniversary celebrations, Excelsior Community College (ECC), which has its main campus on Mountain View Avenue in St Andrew, held a banquet to honour 40 members of staff who served the Methodist institution for 20 or more years.
The awardees, who were fêted at a banquet at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel on Thursday, December 10, included eight ancillary, 11 administrative, and 20 academic members of staff. Thirty-three people worked for between 20 and 29 years, while seven worked for between 30 to 39 years.
There were three special awardees - Reverend Dr Philip Robinson, chaplain, Excelsior Education Centre; Morin Seymour, former college board chairman; and Jephtah Edwards, the longest-serving member of staff, having worked as a driver, and, of late, a driving instructor, for 39 years.
Edwards started working at the high school in 1962, and was selected from a batch of 31 interviewees. He felt he got the job because he was the son of a pastor. He joined the community college one year after it was founded, and is the only current member of staff who was hired by A.Wesley Powell, founder of the Excelsior group of schools.
NOT FOR MONEY
In speaking with The Gleaner, Edwards said there were times when he felt like giving up his job, but stayed at Excelsior in the interest of the students. "When you look at the whole situation, and knowing you have kids ... you say, well, this thing is not for the money. It's for helping people."
Edwards believes Excelsior has grown tremendously over the years, and said it feels "wonderful" to know that he is the longest-serving member of staff, and to be recognised as such. "You have something to look at and say, at least they appreciate what I do," said the veteran driver who had no accident while on the job.
Guest speaker, Leahcim Semaj, implored the awardees, especially those nearing retirement, not to treat the occasion as if their lives were over. He wants them, he said, to take a totally different approach as he would, "to sage" rather than to age, to grow wiser. They must see retirement as a graduation to another level, he said, and he would like to help them to move forward to the next 40 years.
Semaj encouraged them to keep abreast of the time, move forward with technology, and to find an extra gear. Their entrepreneurial zeal must kick in, and they must see retirement as self-employment. The college, he said, should help in preparing them to take on this other phase of their lives, as retiring on a mere pension does not make sense, inflation being taken into consideration.
In response to the honour bestowed upon them, and on behalf of the honourees, Paulette Roberts-Dowe, who lectured at ECC for 25 years, said, "As honourees, we humbly recognise that we are the stewards of something bigger than all of us. We are a temporary guardian of this institution called ECC."
Roberts-Dowe said they owe it all to Dr A.Wesley Powell, whom she thanked "for the display of faith demonstrated when he began his school with five students on his parents' verandah". "He ignited the flame that set ablaze the dreams of thousands of Jamaican boys and girls," Roberts-Dowe said. Dr Powell was the founder of Excelsior Education Centre, of which ECC is a part.
Also addressing the gathering were Reverend Everald Galbraith, president of the Jamaica Methodist and president of the Jamaica Council of Churches; Dr Phylicia Marshall, assistant chief education officer; Doran Dixon, president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association, and Dr Haldane Johnson, vice-chairman of the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica.
Entertainment was provided by the dynamic musician/singer Harold Davis (EXED alumnus) and company.