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The Mico College phenomenon


Geof Brown

"THERE IS not a single institution in Jamaica, that has had such a far-reaching influence for good on the life of the country." These words are the bold assertion made in the foreword of the annual report of the Mico College for 1998-1999. It would be difficult to argue with the assertion. For the college founded in 1836 has produced a most enviable record of service and leadership, not only in its core mandate of teacher education but in the wider spheres of development - nationally and internationally.

This past week and into Monday of this week (National Heroes Day) we have remembered and honoured our individual National Heroes. Strangely, we do not honour equally our national institutions which laid the foundations for building the nation and then helped to erect and maintain the superstructure. If we did, Mico College would have pride of place among institutions of Education, Church, State and the Press which have shaped and are shaping our destiny.

The Mico College celebrated its Home Coming Week October 6-15 in a joint effort of the Mico Old Students Association (MOSA) led by its president Mrs. Joy Cole and the college itself led by its Principal, Dr. Claude Packer. The alumni, staff and students took time out to celebrate the astounding achievements of the institution. In the words of Hon. Burchell Whiteman at one of the ceremonies honouring outstanding Mico graduates of the Twentieth Century, "Either one is proud to have attended the Mico, or regrets that one did not attend there".

What is it about the Mico College phenomenon that makes it so revered by those who attended, those it has affected and those who merely observe it? Those of us who attended were infected by the college motto "Do it with thy Might." But more than the motto, these following words engraved in stone in the entrance hall of the old Mico building, help to explain the shaping of the psyche of the graduates of the institution, simply termed "The Mico".

"The longer I live, the more I am certain that the great difference between men, between the feeble and the powerful, the great and the insignificant, is Energy, Invincible Determination, a purpose once fixed, and then death or victory. That quality will do anything that can be done in this world and no talents, no circumstances, no opportunities, will make a two-legged creature a man without it". ­ Sir T. Powell Buxton

Those words buttressed by the motto "Do it with thy might" have inspired generations of Mico students for over 160 years. They have certainly inspired me. And this helps to explain why Governor-General Sir Howard Cooke, guest speaker at last Saturday's MOA/Mico function to honour outstanding graduates of the century made a remarkable statement. Said he, of all the honours and awards he has received, none has meant as much to him as the Gold Medal award he received from the Mico.

For the Mico is a threshold experience. Those who have been through its walls and gone on to great achievements and great glory, will tell you that the Mico was their greatest mould. A "Mico Man" has been a major badge of honour and since 1954 with the admission of women students, "Miconian" is the title of pride. Some of these graduates were honoured last week in two ceremonies. The Gold Medal awards were made at an Awards Banquet at the Kingston Hilton Hotel to three persons. Professor Vincent D'Oyley long resident in Canada has since graduation unbroken service to education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels, in Jamaica and in Canada.

Another Gold Medal Awardee, Mrs. Silma Edwards was one of the two first females admitted to the Mico in 1954. She has had distinguished service lecturing at UWI, St. Josephs Teachers College and heading a primary school. She previously earned the Jamaica Teachers Association Golden Torch and Teacher Education awards. The third recipient, well-known Professor Neville Ying has straddled the Education and business worlds. Previously a Vice President of the Mechala Group of Companies, he is currently Professor of Business Development at UWI, with a long string of credits in Education at secondary and tertiary levels, plus an impressive public service record.

I wish that the public-at-large could view the impressive list of Outstanding Graduates of the Twentieth Century honoured at the well-organised and impressive MOSA/Mico ceremony conducted at the college. It would help many to understand the scope of the Miconian influence on the society as well as internationally. Article space does not permit a recital. Suffice it to say that 200 graduates and Mico supporters were honoured. Naturally some 82 graduates were honoured posthumously and an equal number honoured are currently alive.

Governor-General Sir Howard Cooke, one of the two Governors-General produced by the Mico (Sir Clifford Campbell the other) heads the current list with the likes of Ambassador Dudley Thompson, Past Principal R.A. Shirley, Dr. Omri Evans, Delano Franklin, Judge Velma Brown, Professor Ying, Ted Dwyer, Silma Edwards, Dr. Delores Brisett, Steadley Webster, Prof. Cleveland Clarke (overseas) invidiously to name a few. And if I may be personal for a moment, like the Governor-General, none of the several awards I have been fortunate enough to receive here and abroad mean more to me than being twice honoured by the Mico.

Posthumously, names like Sir Harold Allan, pioneer legislator, former Minister E.C. Allen pioneer educator, Maurice Berry, founder of Mayberry Investments, Archdeacon Lennon, Eddie Burke, D.R.B. Grant, B. St. J. Hamilton, Bishop S.E. Edmondson are a few of those whose impact has shown "They did it with their might".

A plea. Can our media make space to honour the full list? They represent a truly heroic institution of the nation.

Geof Brown is an HRD consultant who lectures part-time at the University of the West Indies.

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