Don Wehby gives gems at St George’s graduation
On Sunday, I attended St George's College graduation at the invitation of my godson, Adrian Sawyers, and the guest speaker was Don Wehby, CEO of GraceKennedy, himself a George's graduate of the class of 1978. It was a delightful graduation that was engaging and informative save for the difficulty I was having following the order in which the graduants would accept their diplomas. Everybody got a very impressive glossy magazine with pictures of the graduates.
The first memorable speech was the salutary address by Tajae Wallace. There were those who wanted him to go to the great Calabar High school and follow in the footsteps of his brother. He did not go to Calabar, and it shows that you do not have to go to Calabar to be a success. Every student should bloom where he or she is planted. He stated in his well-constructed address that he was proud of his mother, being a single parent, and singled her out for special praise.
primacy to family
Wehby, a successful businessman and leader of one of the largest businesses in the Caribbean, continued on that theme, declaring to the boys that for him it was more important to be a good husband and father of his three children than having a big house, lots of money and fancy cars. Wehby, in his inspiring and short address which was age appropriate, gave primacy to family life over material valuables. This is a gem of a statement because often successful business people sacrifice family to advance their careers.
He encouraged the boys to live lives marked by honesty, integrity and trustworthiness. It is important that we are persons who are dependable and that people can trust our word. Wehby also emphasised the importance of helping the less fortunate, a principle inculcated in students of St George's, a Roman Catholic Jesuit school. The Roman Catholic church in particular and the Jamaican church in general has a track record of helping the less fortunate and empowering Jamaicans through education, skills training, building societies and credit unions. He pledged $100,000 of his personal wealth to fund scholarships for needy academically inclined athletes. In addition, GraceKennedy will be re-building the first form block by September 2015.
Wehby spoke with conviction because his life was an inspiration. His two degrees are from the University of the West Indies, demonstrating that one does not have to study abroad to hold significant positions in the private sector. He gave public service to this country when he served for two years as a senator and as a minister of finance. His tenure was not marked by partisan rhetoric and his utterances are patriotic.
Wehby told the story about how he was successful at 100m hurdling at Boys Championships. He decided he wanted to try the 400m hurdles although he was a skinny fellow. He trained hard and came second at Boys Champs. It shows that with hard work and commitment one can accomplish much. In addition, one does not have to come first to be a success.
In the magazine is a tribute to Cecil 'Juicy' Mason, who served St George's students for 40 years. Wehby related how one day he had no money and ask 'Juicy' to 'trust' him a drink. 'Juicy' replied that he does not 'trust'; it is strictly cash. Shortly thereafter, 'Juicy' gave him the drink and told him not to tell anyone. A gem of a story about the resilience, kindness, hard work of our small traders and the contribution they are making to our nation, even though they may not get enough recognition, but they do it anyway. A gem of a story.
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.