Karen Sudu, Gleaner Writer
LINSTEAD, St Catherine:IT WAS a ceremony laced with glowing tributes, warm greetings, exquisite music, delicious food, and impeccable performances, all in honour of Dennis Melbourne Clarke, retired principal, Dinthill Technical High School in Linstead, St Catherine.
Clarke, a Miconian, entered the profession at age 17. He has served Carron Hall All-Age, Guy's Hill Secondary, and St Mary High schools as a teacher. Prior to Dinthill, he served St Thomas Technical High School as principal, The Mico College as senior lecturer, and the Ministry of Education's Technical Vocational Unit as an education officer.
Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change and Member of Parliament for North West St Catherine Robert Pickersgill described Clarke as "the quintessential educator, a man who has embodied the spirit of excellence throughout the course of his career".
"At a time when our education system is plagued by indiscipline, academic decline, and moral decay, under Mr Clarke's able leadership, Dinthill Technical managed to gain an enviable reputation for its high level of discipline, excellence in academics, sports, and of course, agriculture," said Pickersgill.
Clarke commenced his tenure at Dinthill Technical High School on March 1, 1999, and has been credited with much of the transformation of the institution, established in 1938 as a Practical Training Centre.
"Significantly, the school plant has benefited from Mr Clarke's input, with renovation of the auditorium and its naming in honour of former principal, Mr Enos Barrett; the refurbishing of the administrative block; upgrading of a block of classrooms for better acoustics; expansion of the playing field; and designing and overseeing the construction of the music room," read Clarke's citation.
Verol Johnson, who co-read the retired principal's citation with Leonie Henry-Chambers, highlighted the significance Clarke placed on agriculture.
"He emphasised that agriculture was to become the hub of the institution, maintaining its original focus. To this end, he resuscitated orchards, planted coconut and pear trees, improved livestock, and introduced greenhouse technology," read Johnson.
In their greetings, Marcus Nash, deputy chairman, board of governors, and Craig Morrison, president, parent-teacher association, highlighted Clarke's invaluable contribution to the institution, marked by the significance he placed on discipline in all spheres.
While underscoring Nash and Morrison's sentiments, representatives of the Jamaica, Florida, and New York chapters of the alumni association hailed the stalwart for the positive impact he has had on the lives of thousands of students.
One of the highlights of the function held in the Enos Barrett auditorium was the flawless performance of the inimitable Ken Boothe, who engaged the audience with songs such as Puppet on a String, When I Fall in Love, You Shelter Me From Storm, and Moving Away.
Clive 'Jabez' Provost, past student, was no less captivating in his tribute in a song titled You Did It Your Way, which won the audience's approval.
Keynote speaker W. Billy Heaven, chief executive officer, CHASE Fund, shared 10 ways with the honouree on how he could spend his retirement.
"Retirement is not about spending your life in a rocking chair. it's a time to add purpose and meaning to an already purposeful and meaningful life," Heaven told Clarke.
After the ceremony, guided by Glendon Johnson, chairman, board of governors, Clarke told The Gleaner that the event was a "wonderful finale to one's years of service". For this, he said, he felt extremely gratified.
"I feel that I have accomplished much, and I just want to say if I could do it again, I would take the opportunity of doing it all over," he said.