Clarendon College alumni urged to help alma mater
July 20, 2017
For a while in the early 1990s, Minna Israel thought Canada would be her new home.
Armed with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business, the banking executive had a full-time job with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) multinational department in downtown Toronto when she ran into a Jamaican Scotiabank employee on a training program who encouraged her to return home.
That wasn’t something Israel was considering at the time.
With the Canadian economy facing an economic downturn and RBC Canada restructuring in some areas, she took up a job offer with the Bank of Nova Scotia in Jamaica in 1991 and rose to the positions of executive vice-president and deputy chief executive officer before being appointed the first female country head in 2003.
“It was a great opportunity to go back and practice what I learnt in Canada,” said Israel who was the guest of honour at the Clarendon College Alumni Association Toronto chapter awards gala to recognize the school’s 75th anniversary this year.
She said the two years spent at the southwestern Ontario University were extremely rewarding.
“Apart from the very cold winter, going to the university took me out of my comfort zone,” said Israel who graduated in 1989 and spent three years in the Bahamas as Scotiabank’s managing director. “In Jamaica, I had people doing my typing and when I got on campus, I had to do my assignments on a computer. I made new friends, enjoyed wine tasting and other activities on campus and in the London community and worked very hard to ensure my papers were delivered on time at mid-day on Saturdays.”
Israel came to Canada to do the graduate degree because MBA programs weren’t offered at Jamaican universities at the time.
“A Masters in Accounting was available which I started, but I didn’t want to be an accounting major,” she said. “I wanted to do general management.”
The University of Western Ontario was an easy choice for Israel since it had a special relationship back then with the University of the West Indies (UWI) where she completed a management studies degree in 1984.
“We used their business cases so it was an easy transition coming here,” she pointed out.
Returning to Toronto two weeks ago to be honoured at the alumni event was quite satisfying.
Israel said Clarendon College, where she graduated from in 1972, laid the foundation for her professional success.
“It was one of the few boarding schools in Jamaica back then,” she said. “With teachers living on campus, there was always that commitment and engagement with students that contributed to our growth. I also benefitted from going to a co-ed school because we had to compete with males at a young age. By the time I got to the corporate world, it was really no big deal for me as I was already prepared for that. I was also involved in drama, sports and with the girls’ brigade. All of that made me a well-rounded individual.”
While very proud to be a Clarendon College alumna, Israel – who completed the executive program at the University of Michigan Business School – expressed disappointment that the school wasn’t in the top 31 in this year’s Jamaica high school rankings.
The rankings were calculated by Education Jamaica, a local think tank, based on the number of Grade 11 students who were successful in at least five subjects, including Math and/or English in the 2016 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examination.
Belmont Academy, established eight years ago in Westmoreland, made the biggest leap in the past year from 32nd to 13th while Campion College reclaimed the top spot from second-place Immaculate Conception.
“We all accept that this present ranking does not bode well for the future of Clarendon College and therefore I invite us all to take the courage to be part of the solution to take corrective action to improve the academic performance of our school and restore the tradition of excellence,” said Israel who spent three years at the University of Technology before attending UWI. “When we look around, there are many needs, including infrastructural upgrade, committed teachers and mentors.”
Israel, the first female Jamaica Bankers’ Association president and former International Women’s Forum Jamaica chapter president, proposed that alumni in Canada and the rest of the Diaspora consider e-mentorship to assist students with professional and academic advice and career counselling.
“For those of you who don’t have the money to donate to the schools’ ‘Restoration to Excellence Project’, I hope you will have the courage to become an e-mentor,” the First Global Bank Jamaica Ltd. and Jamaica Public Service Company board member said.
To celebrate a milestone birthday two years ago, Israel solicited almost US$26,000 from family and friends that she used to provide scholarships and bursaries for talented but financially-strapped students.
“I have heard so many stories of young, bright and talented students whose opportunities and possibilities are thwarted by their economic solutions,” she said. “…We all have an opportunity to help students of Clarendon College achieve their dream. I want to urge you to be courageous and resolute in that responsibility.”
Four years ago, the UWI Mona School of Business distinguished business fellow was appointed a special advisor to the UWI vice-chancellor on resource development.
“In that role, I focus on philanthropy, fundraising, connecting with alumni globally, exploring partnership opportunities and seeking to increase the visibility of the university internationally,” said Minna who was conferred with an honourary degree by UWI in November 2011.
She singled out the UWI Toronto Benefit gala committee that has raised thousands of dollars in the last eight years to provide scholarships for UWI students while recognizing outstanding community leaders.
“They have done an amazing job recognizing mainly people with Caribbean roots while raising funds for the very talented but needy students,” added Israel whose son, Kris Anthony Turner, is a UWI graduate. “The group here in Toronto is really doing an outstanding job.”
The Clarendon College Alumni Association Toronto chapter presented several awards at their annual gala.
Israel, one of four Judicial Service Commission commissioners, was the recipient of a Distinguished Service Award while Edwin Allen, the alumni group past treasurer, was presented with a Service Award.
Community Service Awards were presented to Carmela Walters and Toronto Police’s 42 Division.
Established 35 years ago, the alumni chapter is headed by University of Waterloo doctoral candidate Hugh Simmonds. The rest of the executive comprises Esata Masters (vice-president), Valrie Grosset (secretary), Jennifer McCallum (treasurer), Sharon Barnette (membership chair), Jacqui Mills (public relations director) and Maureen Barnes-Smith (special projects director).