Sat | Jun 23, 2018

A shared conception of greatness

Published:Monday | February 4, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Dr Dorothy Jarvis - Contributed
Dr Mary Anne Chambers - Contributed

Nashauna Drummond, Lifestyle Coordinator

Dr Mary Anne Chambers - The purpose-driven life

March 23 will be a big day for Dr Mary Anne Chambers. That's when she will be honoured by Immaculate Conception High, her alma mater, for which she still has great affection. Chambers will be honoured along with her former headmistress, Sister Maureen Clare Hall, and her one-time piano teacher and glee club director, Lisa Narcisse, making the moment especially fulfilling.

"This has me wondering if I might be dreaming!" she told Flair in an email interview. "I am very proud to claim Immaculate Conception High School as my alma mater. I see similarities between the high expectations my parents had for me and what my teachers at Immaculate expected of me. It was not only about academic achievement. The kind of person I should and could be was as important," she said.

"Like my parents, I saw the nuns at Immaculate as a formidable force. When I knew that I was making my parents proud, I felt wonderful. When Immaculate Conception High School suggests that they are proud of me, it is both wonderful and humbling because there are so many outstanding Immaculate alumni."

In all, six women will be honoured at the Immaculate Conception High School inaugural Hall of Fame Banquet. The other honourees are Sister Grace Yap (for volunteerism and social services), Thalia Lyn (business) and Dr Dorothy Anna (Figueroa) Jarvis (medicine).


Dr Chambers, in return, honours her alma mater for all that she has achieved. "Even as my parents deserve huge credit for the person I have become, they would also say that my Immaculate experience has played and continues to play a significant role in the person that I am."

The person she has become is a well-respected, result-oriented Canadian politician. She was an elected member of the Provincial Parliament for Scarborough East from 2003 to 2007. She was sworn in as a member of the Executive Council of Ontario, and appointed minister of training, colleges and universities, in October 2003. In June 2005, Chambers was appointed minister of children and youth services. But as she told Flair, politics was not part of her original game plan. "I agreed to run for political office because I believe first and foremost in good public policy. Political office gave me the opportunity to serve the public good to an extent that I would not otherwise have been able to. Someone who holds political office has the ability to positively impact a nation's people, if she or he is genuinely committed to public service."

Chambers' professional career began in 1976 when she started working at Scotiabank as a computer programmer. Back then, she told Flair, she had no particular career goals. "I had arrived in Canada with my husband and our two very young sons just a few days before I was offered the job. I was simply happy with the belief that our family would be OK in our adopted country."

During her time at Scotiabank she excelled, holding a number of managerial positions, eventually retiring as a senior vice-president at Scotiabank, a position she held for four years.

"I am very happy to have been encouraged, throughout my formative years, to take responsibility for whatever I am to achieve in life. I grew up believing that honesty and integrity were non-negotiable. I have found those values and principles to be personally empowering, and I find opportunities to share those lessons with children and youth. I tell them that only they can determine what they can and should achieve. I also tell them that my parents always told me I was wonderful. That seemed to be their way of telling me that they expected me to be wonderful. A healthy dose of self-esteem and self-respect is good for us. At Immaculate, we were told that we could be whatever we wanted to be. We could achieve whatever we wanted to achieve."

Now as she looks back on her life, she has no regrets. "I consider myself to be extremely fortunate. My husband, our sons, their wives and our granddaughters love me! What more could I need? Or perhaps the question might be what more should I need to accomplish? My husband has told me that I am purpose driven. That means it is very important to me that I have, and am able to contribute value. I live by the mantra that the world should be a better place because I have lived."

In helping to make the world a better place, Chambers has been a champion for access to education. As a result of legislation introduced under her leadership, Ontario has the first regulatory college for early-childhood educators in Canada. She also led the establishment of a youth opportunities strategy which included the hiring of youth outreach workers, and training and employment programmes for youth from marginalised communities, as well as establishing an income-based non-repayable tuition grants for first- and second-year college and university students.

"I believe access to opportunity should not be available to selected people, but to everyone. Education is the most effective and reliable door to opportunity. While it offers no guarantees, without a good education, the possibilities for a satisfying life can be very limited. When someone is able to achieve their particular potential, they are able to contribute more to the success of their family and their community, and their country is stronger as a result."

But while she has worked on education in Canada, Jamaica has also benefited. She is chair of the board of directors, and president of PACE (Canada), the Project for Advancement of Childhood Education. To date, the organisation, through Canada's Adopt-A-School programme now supports over 308 schools from St Mary, Clarendon, Portland and Hanover.

She told Flair: "To volunteer is to do something that you are not required to do. I find it liberating, refreshing and fulfilling to be able to do something worthwhile and of my choosing, simply because I want to do it. It's like when you love your job. The saying goes that if you love your job you won't have to work a day in your life. As a little girl, I learned from my catechism that God created us as social beings, with a natural extension of that being that we are to care for each other. I have found it very easy to buy into that notion. I have also lived what I refer to as a charmed life. Being able to contribute positively to the lives of others, particularly those less fortunate than myself, simply seems like a fair and reasonable way to demonstrate my gratitude."

Dr Dorothy Jarvis - A life of learning

Dr Dorothy Jarvis is thrilled about being honoured by the only school she ever attended in Jamaica.

"I am overwhelmed at the recognition." What she learnt at Immaculate Conception High (she also attended the preparatory) she told Flair, is still integral for today's youth. "The old-style nuns taught us the values of self-discipline, hard work and concern for others, which are still essential values for young people today."

A paediatrician for almost 40 years, Jarvis was attracted to the field of medicine because of her interest in the human condition.

"I have always found the human condition infinitely interesting, particularly the ways in which children and parents respond to illness. Children are so much more resilient than adults. I enjoy helping people work through challenges."

Currently professor emerita, Department of Paediatrics, University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, Jarvis has thoroughly enjoyed her career. "Every day brings new challenges, and I learn something new each time I work. This applies whether I am in the emergency department, participating in educational activities or attending to administrative matters."

Her work is never stagnant.

"My preferences have evolved. When I was younger, the clinical practice captured my interest. With time, it became clear to me that no practitioner stays at their peak forever; therefore, teaching and mentoring younger colleagues became my focus."

She credits her high school for the valuable lessons she was taught. Most importantly that, "Life is not easy, and hard work with a smile is essential for any success."

Even as she has lived in Canada for many decades, Jamaica has never been far from her consciousness. Since 1985, she has been involved in Jamaican and Caribbean community liaison work. In celebration of Jamaica 50, she was an active member of the Art and Literature Committee. The result was a series of successful events. "We engaged many people within our community and Canadians of all backgrounds. It was an opportunity to showcase some Jamaican talents which are rarely appreciated except by those with special interests."

For her it was easier celebrating Jamaica 50 away from home. "It was actually easier being away from the 'mother island'. Many of us are chronically nostalgic for home, which resulted in Canadians with any connection to Jamaica being willing to get involved and celebrate."