Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
BROWN'S TOWN, St Ann:
THE NAME James Walsh is synonymous with Brown's Town Community College (BTCC).
Fresh out of the University of the West Indies, Walsh joined the staff at the institution when it opened its doors in 1975 and has been there ever since all of 37 years.
Except for two breaks when he was seconded to the Ministry of Justice and then the Social Development Commission, Walsh's entire post-university working life has been with the college.
But 15 years after being appointed principal in 1997, it appears that the journey has just begun for the quiet, unpretentious gentleman who is 58 years old.
He readily shoots down any suggestion that BTCC's positive image has been his doing and heaps praises on past principal and former education minister, Burchell Whiteman, for setting the standard. He is merely continuing what was started, Walsh accepts, but has only done so with the assistance of an outstanding staff complement and students who have worked hard and have succeeded as a result.
On Wednesday, The Gleaner spoke with Walsh about what keeps him going at BTCC after nearly four decades at the institution.
"It is a mission. The truth is, you see, what keeps me going is that it is something I believe in. It's something I want to do. It's what they call fun. It gives you fulfilment - it's not really work. Every day you get up, whether you feel sick or you're tired, or whatever, one thing you know, is that what you're going to do is worthwhile. It is something that is positive for the society," he explained.
Prime Minister's Medal of Honour
Two years ago, Walsh was awarded the Prime Minister's Medal of Honour for his contribution to education, a testament to his worth. He is appreciative of the recognition, but the real honour for him, he said, comes whenever a student succeeds.
Said Walsh: "As I said to them, my Teacher's Day is every time a student succeeds, so every day I have Teachers' Day. You really need recognition for things that are a strain and a stress on you. The work I'm doing, yes the pay is important, because I'm not independently rich, and couldn't live without it, but if it was for the pay alone, I wouldn't do it, I would have found something more lucrative.
"It is meaningful, fulfilling work. It is something that enables you to assist in the transformation of people's lives to realise their potential, etc. What I'm sad about is that as a country, while we've achieved a lot, we haven't come closer to our full potential, and that is something that has to be a work in progress."
More than 1,300 students (around a thousand of them full time) attend the college's three campuses, one being the Wesley campus on Gordon Tennant Road in St Ann's Bay, which houses the first nursing school in the northern region of the island. Through this facility, BTCC has been able to become pioneers in offering a degree course in nursing. Another campus at Discovery Bay offers technical courses.
The main campus in Brown's Town has a wide curriculum as it serves all post-secondary levels, ranging from persons who didn't do well in high school to those in transition to university and are in the pre-university course, or those doing associate degree courses.
"We are quite strong in business and hospitality in particular. We have developed a really outstanding pre-university science programme recently," Walsh revealed.
Brown's Town Community College could also be regarded as pioneers in training for export, having trained resident care aids and licensed practical nurses for the Canadian market.
Recently, the college also brokered a master's degree hospitality course with Birmingham University, which Walsh describes as "one of the more outstanding, more cost effective courses. It's really high value for money - world-class training in hospitality management."