Higher education allows this family to give back
April 28, 2017
Having an immediate family member with a doctorate would make any household proud.
When all three siblings in the family have completed the advanced postgraduate degree, it is cause for even greater pride and celebration.
For this particular clan, it also brings a sense of responsibility.
Colin Dye, who has a PhD in philosophy from Reading University in England, is the principal at Bendale Business & Technical Institute in Scarborough. Debra Dye-Torrington, the eldest of the siblings, is a rheumatologist while her younger sister Valerie Dye secured her doctorate in law from the University of Manchester and is a lawyer at Dye Law.
Raised in humble beginnings in a small Guyanese rural village, the high achieving siblings were taught at a young age that education is the key to opportunity and success.
“Our father, who worked on the sugar estate, always stressed that it was simply not enough to have a job and earn a salary,” said Dye-Torrington. “He made it clear that we should have a profession. While he was not fortunate enough to go far in school because he had to leave at an early age to financially support his family, he motivated us to strive for higher education. Our mom, on the other hand, was a homemaker and she prepared our meals. She recognized that nutrition is essential to the healthy development of young students.”
The fact that the Dye’s ended up in the same city in Canada is pure coincidence.
After graduating with a chemistry degree from the University of Guyana (UG), Colin Dye worked as a chemist at the National Agricultural Research Institute and was a teacher before accepting a United Nations scholarship to pursue graduate studies in England.
With his doctorate in hand, he returned to Guyana and spent seven years was working four jobs most at times before opting to leave the country.
“When the government changed hands in 1992, the economy was in bad shape and I didn’t see a future for myself there,” Dye said.
The married father of three children landed in Canada in December 1999 as an economic migrant.
Encouraged to take up teaching by a UG colleague who was in the profession here, Dye did his Bachelor of Education at York University and started his journey in the field as an emergency supply teacher at Brookview Middle School.
Valerie Dye was a high school teacher in Guyana for seven years before switching careers.
“My father always told me I should study law, but I never took him seriously,” she recounted. “However, when I became dissatisfied with teaching and felt I could be doing more, I went back to my dad’s advice.”
She received her law degree from UG and her legal education certificate from the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad & Tobago and was a crown counsel in the Ministry of Attorney General’s office in St. Kitts for two years up until 2004 before heading to England where she completed her Master’s in international business law in 2005 and her doctorate five years later.
While at the University of Manchester, Dye was an associate lecturer for 41 months before settling in Canada -- where she was a landed immigrant – in December 2010.
Dye-Torrington always had a passion for science and aspired to be a nurse.
“I knew I wanted to be in the medical profession because it allowed you to help people which is something I love doing,” the married mother of a daughter whom is a child and youth worker noted. “While I was working in the Georgetown Hospital haematology department, I became curious and it crossed my mind that I should be a doctor.”
After graduating from UG and interning at Georgetown Hospital, Dye-Torrington spent five years at Mackenzie Hospital in Linden which is about 90 kilometres south of Georgetown.
“At that point, I was not satisfied with just being an ordinary doctor as I felt I could do more with my skills,” she said.
After a two-year stint in the Turks & Caicos, Dye-Torrington returned to Guyana, applied to come to Canada and was successful.
“After arriving here in April 2005, I was told by almost everyone I met that I would be unable to get into medicine,” she recalled. “Someone even said it was like threading a needle with very coarse thread.”
With the help of her brother’s wife, Dr. Audrey Dye who is a family physician, Dye-Torrington passed the required exams to enter the University of Toronto residency program. She was an internal medicine specialist for three years before becoming a rheumatologist in 2010.
While growing up, the Dye’s said it never crossed their mind they would have PhDs and be working in the same city in a foreign country.
“Leaving Guyana was wishful thinking when we were growing up,” said Colin Dye. “The first time I stepped on a plane was in 1988 when I was 24 and going to England on a scholarship. I was so naive at the time that I went with a T shirt in the autumn and was very sick for the first two weeks there. Though I am the young of the siblings, I was the first to leave home and the first to come to Canada and be there for my sisters when they followed.”
In addition to running her own law practice specializing in family law, wills and real estate, Valerie Dye is a part-time instructor at Ryerson University and a law instructor in the University of Liverpool online LLM program.
“My two loves are teaching and practicing law,” said the former Metelsky Plourde associate lawyer who was called to the Ontario Bar four years ago.
The super siblings do not take their professional positions lightly.
They consider themselves role models who are positively impacting the lives of young people.
“As the first Black teaching assistant in my department in England, there was a Guyanese-Chinese student and another minority who were overjoyed when they saw me in their classroom,” said Valerie Dye. “Having positive role models does make a difference.”
Dye-Torrington said she received mixed reaction while doing her residency program.
“A Black nurse would come up to me and say, ‘I feel so proud’ and some of them have even asked me to talk to their kids who are interested in pursuing medical studies,” she pointed out. “On the other hand, I encountered White nurses who asked me if I was the cleaner. There was one who ordered me out of the emergency department by telling me I am not allowed to use the computers that are reserved for doctors.”
With Black boys not faring well in high school, there’s an increasing need for Black male teachers to help them succeed.
“I remember when I started at Brookview 18 years ago, a Grade six student asked me where was her teacher,” said Dye. “When I told her I was teaching for the day, her response was, ‘Black people can be teachers’. I was moved by that comment. Now when I walk into a school and kids see I am a principal, they look up to me as a role model and feel as if they too can achieve. That’s the reason why I got into teaching when I came here because a friend told me this is what students need.”
Dye and his wife’s work ethic and success have been passed on to their children who are in their 20s.
The eldest is an engineer, the middle child is attending medical school in Grenada and the youngest graduated from the University of Waterloo and is employed at a consulting firm.