'I am honoured and humbled'
- Canadian financial giant Raymond Chang gets OJ tomorrow
Howard Campbell, Sunday Gleaner Writer
There have been a lot of highs in Raymond Chang's life. Overseeing the transformation of a modest Toronto investment fund company into a Canadian powerhouse is just one of them.
Yet, he ranks a sobering experience that took place in 1962 while he was a youth teacher in Kingston, among his most noted accomplishments.
"I was part of a literacy programme at Matilda's Corner put on by Sts Peter and Paul Church and one of my students was a little old lady," Chang recalled during an interview with The Sunday Gleaner last week.
"She told me she was so glad she could finally read The STAR. It is as good a feeling as I ever had," he added.
The senior citizen's gratitude had an enduring effect on Chang, one of six persons who will be conferred with the Order of Jamaica at King's House tomorrow.
Chang says he is "honoured and humbled" to receive his country's third-highest civic award for years of philanthropy.
"What better pat on the back can one get?"
In the last 20 years, Chang has made a name for himself in Canadian commerce, working first as an engineer then as a chartered accountant. He joined CI Fund Management in 1984 when the company had CDN$5 million in assets.
Now known as CI International, it has more than CDN$70 billion in assets and is the third-largest investment fund company in Canada. Chang has donated millions of dollars to various organisations in his adopted country and Jamaica.
"It's not only a matter of giving assets. It's just as important to give your time," he said.
Education has always been a big part of Chang's life. The Jesuits at his alma mater, St George's College, were a huge influence on him, so too administrators at Sts Peter and Paul who organised literacy projects near its Old Hope Road headquarters.
After attending college in the United States for one year in 1967, Chang moved to Canada the following year to attend the University of Toronto where he majored in electrical engineering.
In 2001, Chang became a member of the board at Ryerson University. He has been chancellor there since 2006 and helped establish the G. Raymond Chang School for Continued Education on the school's downtown Toronto campus.
The school has an annual enrolment of 70,000, offering certificate and degree courses in subjects from accounting to website design.
However, Chang is not pleased with the state of education in Jamaica.
"I'm really disappointed in the education system, not enough is being done; not only in the academic sense, but attitudinal as well," he said.
Chang's benevolence has helped several Jamaican organisations. During a speech in Kingston in 2005, he admonished the local private sector for its lack of involvement in social programmes.
"I got into some trouble for that," he said, chuckling. "But the fact of the matter is, Government does not make any extra money to spare, so it's the obligation of private-sector organisations to contribute as much as they can to the community."
Chang was born in Kingston, the fifth of 12 children. His father was a second-generation Jamaican-Chinese while his mother was born in Guyana to Chinese immigrants.
When he steps up to receive his OJ on National Heroes Day, Chang says he will do so with the humility his parents espoused. He retains that trait even though he is regarded as a wealthy man.
"I've been lucky all my life. There's been no great secret. Just luck," he said.