Glen Archer was the epitome of excellence
Few people anywhere can have been as good and as successful at what they do as was Glen Archer. He produced spelling champions.
Over the last 29 years, he coached 27 of the winners in The Gleaner's Children's Own Spelling Bee competition, 19 of whom were students of Ardenne High School, where he taught. Further, in 1998, he famously took Jody-Anne Maxwell, then 12, to America's national spelling competition in Washington, DC, where she became the first foreigner to win. In subsequent years, Mr Archer, under the umbrella of The Gleaner, coached 15 Jamaican entrants to the United States contests, only one of whom exited earlier than the fourth round, which his students reached six times. He had students finishing third, fourth, eighth, and 11th.
Such performances and the development of a training methodology by which they were achieved could, by themselves, arguably, qualify Mr Archer for the designation of genius. Such a claim could only enhance success in his other endeavours, including the outstanding performances of the Ardenne team he trained in the domestically televised Schools' Challenge Quiz.
commitment to excellence
But that was only the most obvious, or proximate, outcome of Mr Archer's efforts. For there is in this record something deeper and more profound, and of potentially far greater consequence to Jamaica, that was implicitly captured in the reactions to the news of Mr Archer's death on Sunday of renal failure. He was 61.
Glen Archer epitomised a commitment to excellence and a view that Jamaica and its children are not constrained by geography, their immediate personal circumstances, or the state of the country's development. Those were challenges to be scaled with the application of intellect, discipline and effort.
Indeed, it would have taken someone of supreme confidence to fight for entry for foreigners into the Scripps Howard contest, certain that the training method he had developed - and often subject to criticism at home - and the champions it produced were good enough to challenge and defeat America's best.
As Christopher Barnes, this newspaper's managing director, observed, "He prepared many of our children for competition in the global arena and allowed them a taste of success."
But as important as winning was to Glen Archer and those he coached, success was not only for personal adulation or towards material ends. He instilled broader life lessons, informed by Mr Archer's born-again Christian values.
The point was that life didn't automatically owe you success. Success was, in part, a return on the investment of hard work and consistent effort and a willingness to drag oneself up and start again after being stalled by an obstacle. The Archer philosophy, too, was about enjoying success without gloating about personal success, no matter the scale of the achievement.
These are characteristics of a decent human being who helped to give Jamaicans, through whom many lived vicariously, a legacy worthy of expansion. Jamaica should not allow it to lapse.