Wed | Nov 13, 2019

Professor Roy McLeod returns to Iona High School

Published:Saturday | February 16, 2019 | 12:22 AM
Professor Roy McLeod with Melva Humes-Johnson, principal of Iona High School.


Not many high schools in Jamaica can boast that their first student went on to earn a doctorate and serve in education at the international level for decades. Iona High School in Tower Isle, St Mary, can.

When Iona began in 1949 (originally as Folk High School) in Lucky Hill, St Mary, it began with three girls and a boy on roll. On February 14, 2019, with the school in the midst of a year-long 70th anniversary celebration, that first boy, now a professor, returned to the institution to pay a courtesy call on the principal, Melva Humes-Johnson.

For Professor Roy McLeod, being the first student at Iona High equipped him to be at the forefront throughout his career, despite him spending just one year at the institution. At Iona, McLeod was inspired by and learnt a lot from Rev H B Swaby, founder of Iona High. This would have served him throughout his professional career and, indeed, his personal life.

“He would have taught me discipline, extraordinary discipline. He was erudite and articulate, a gentleman that impressed me enormously. I learnt from that,” McLeod told The Gleaner as he sat in the principal’s office.

After Iona, McLeod moved on the Kingston Technical High School before leaving Jamaica in 1957 for Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois, in the United States.

“I majored in mathematics, minored in chemistry and physics, and I got my bachelor’s degree from that college in 1961. I continued at New Mexico Highlands University in New Mexico, where I got a Master of Science in mathematics with a minor in physics, and continued from there to New York, where I started teaching full time.”

In New York, McLeod taught at Manhattan College and Hunter College.

He went on to get his doctorate from Columbia University, after which he was part of a four-man team that opened LaGuardia Community College in New York in 1971 after the community college was established in 1967.

“There were four people in the math department [at LaGuardia]; I was one of the four. I taught there, became the first chairman of the mathematics department and spent 12 years in that job, then became the dean of faculty at that college, which is the provost.”

Returning to Iona, the professor said he was impressed with what he has seen.

“Oh, I’m so impressed, very deeply impressed, with what has come forth here,” McLeod said.

“I can certainly commend Herbert Swaby for his vision and to have started something and seen it grow to this level. It’s a privilege and an honour for me to be sitting here today as part of that beginning.”

Professor McLeod has pledge to support Iona’s scholarship fund.

“I just guaranteed I will be making my donation to that scholarship fund. I will continue to do that. There are two institutions that I’ve supported, and that was Kingston Technical High School and Blackburn College in Illinois, in spite of going to other universities, and I now intend to support Iona, she (the principal) can count on that.”

Humes-Johnson was delighted to welcome McLeod and his support of Iona’s scholarship fund.

According to Humes-Johnson: “I am indeed honoured to sit among someone who was a part of the vision, and it really makes us understand that this legacy is an awesome one and that we should really have that vision for our children, the nation’s children, because we never know where they are slated to go and to create that great vision. I am indeed honoured to have him here.”