Barbara Ellington, Public Affairs Editor
Twenty-six and a half million dollars and counting. That is the amount in cheques and pledges that will seed the new Danny Williams Bursary Fund for needy students of Jamaica College (JC) in St Andrew. The fund was launched at the St Andrew residence of Sagicor head Richard Byles and his wife Jacinth last Saturday evening.
And a very pleased Honourable R. Danvers Williams accepted the honour of having the fund named for him, as well as receiving all the kudos while "I am still alive," he said in his response. He was equally quick to note that his achievements on behalf of his alma mater were not solo performances.
But he noted that the two main ingredients in the ongoing success of JC were money and management. He said principal Ruel Reid was providing superb management and the old boys were taking care of the money aspect of things.
Among them, he singled out: Honourable Karl Hendrickson, Chris Williams of Proven Investments, and new chairman Michael Bernard, for their input. Board member Claudette Chin also received high praises for her tireless work in the transformation process that has turned the once-shunned boys' school into the best high school in Jamaica.
"I love the recognition, but I did not do it alone, I have had phenomenal support and I am now handing over to a very capable Michael Bernard," Williams said. In his rather witty response, Williams urged his listeners to contribute to the perpetual fund, which would be used to provide bus fares, textbooks and lunch money for the boys in need. "Many of you, like me, are now over 70 and you love to spend your money, well spend it on JC," he encouraged. He noted that, since 2006, the school had received some $400 million in cash and kind from old boys all over the world.
Founding sponsor Richard Byles, who presented the cheque worth $13.5 million to Williams, said there were pledges for $8 million from past students and $5 million from the family of the late Barclay Ewart, also an old boy.
Michael Bernard outlined how the five-year strategy had worked to get the best principal, teachers and other stakeholders on one accord. "The trust was ignited, everyone saw the vision to eradicate negative images of JC. The foundation was put in place, and Williams 'exploited' school resources to produce sustainable income streams such as leasing lands to the American International School, constructing the Karl Hendrickson Auditorium, and bringing in Mother's canteen. For the school, the new block of staff apartments, the Gore Industrial Arts building, and the Frank Hall Gym, have been added," Bernard told his cheering audience. There are now plans to build a 50-bed dormitory.
But most important, there have been significant improvements in discipline, academic performance, staff-student relationships, the image of the school, extra-curricular activities, and the audited accounts are complete as at 2012 - all placing JC in high demand, Bernard said.