UWI honourary degree for humble humanitarian

UWI honourary degree for humble humanitarian

November 21, 2018

Often times at fundraisers, citizens are prompted to give until it hurts.

There are some exceptions like Donette Chin-Loy Chang who doesn’t need to be reminded as she was raised by a family that embraces philanthropy.

She often tells the story of a young man who showed up at her father’s studio and fast food restaurant asking for a job.

“Have you eaten?” inquired World War II veteran Lloyd Chin-Loy who died two decades ago.

Chin-Loy Chang said every visitor to the family home was greeted with those words.

Her dad hired the amateur boxer who lived above the recording studio, became the family’s bodyguard and driver and later the manager of a boutique hotel in the United States.

That episode had a profound impact on Chin-Loy Chang.

“What is the point of having the ability and resources and not sharing to make other people better,” she said. “I saw my parents and grandmother giving back to individuals and then to communities, so giving back has been embedded in my psyche. They treated everyone equally. Giving is second nature and getting is never expected because it is in the giving that you create joy, satisfaction and love, seeing another person thrive.”

On November 2 at the Mona campus in Jamaica, the University of the West Indies (UWI) rewarded its leading donor with an honourary degree.

UWI chancellor Robert Bermudez presents the honourary degree to Donette Chin-Loy Chang

UWI chancellor Robert Bermudez presents the honourary degree to Donette Chin-Loy Chang

That distinction doesn’t sit well with Chin-Loy Chang even though she’s humbled by the recognition.

“I was surprised when I heard that,” she said. “What that says is the university needs to have a serious strategy for fundraising.”

A few years ago, she and her late husband Ray Chang made a US$1 million donation to support the university’s family medicine post-graduate training program. They also sponsored the development of a collaborative initiative between the School of Nursing at the UWI Mona campus and the Ray Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University that resulted in more than 350 individuals getting nursing degrees and becoming nurses across more than 16 Caribbean countries.

Chin-Loy Chang is also the co-patron of the UWI Toronto benefit gala that has raised Can$1.2 million and provided scholarships for almost 400 students in the last nine years and patron of the CB Group UWI 5k and Smart Eggs Kids K which are the largest fundraisers for Mona students with almost 220 scholarships awarded.

In the citation, UWI public orator Dr. Michael Bucknor said Chin-Loy Chang’s understated demeanour that suggests she doesn’t desire to trumpet her generosity is a rare find.

“We live in a world where even the most miniscule act, much less an act of kindness, must be photographed, posted, retweeted, circulated and prominently displayed via the circuits of public consumption,” he said. “She’s cut from another cloth. Having attended Jamaican Catholic schools, it is as if she has been inspired by the prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and not to ask for any reward save that of knowing that we do your will.”

Donette Chin-Loy Chang shared the spotlight with former West Indies cricketer Michael Holding

Donette Chin-Loy Chang shared the spotlight with former West Indies cricketer Michael Holding

Bucknor said this kind of selfless giving back or paying it forward is absolutely necessary for building of communities that exist on unequal distribution of resources.

“This generous heart, this humble humanitarian, this fierce supporter of the vulnerable must know that the Lord loveth a cheerful giver and so does UWI,” he pointed out.

Chin-Loy Chang’s largesse extends beyond UWI.

She donates scholarships to Ryerson University students and several Jamaican high schools, including her alma mater – Immaculate Conception – where she started the biennial Hall of Fame which is the school’s largest fundraiser, and St. George’s College where her deceased husband attended.

The benefactor also co-chairs Food for the Poor Canada that has built over 50 schools and 26 homes in Jamaica, 35 homes in Haiti and provided relief help in the aftermath of natural disasters in the Caribbean and is a member of the University Health Network $1 billion campaign that combines four Canadian hospitals.

Coming to Canada with her family in 1971, Chin-Loy Chang completed high school at Thornlea Secondary and post-graduate studies in journalism at Ryerson.

“I was accepted by three other universities, but I chose Ryerson because of its practical approach, equal balance of theory and my comfort level,” she said.

After six years with CBC, Chin-Loy Chang returned to Jamaica in 1984 after being headhunted by Ruder, Finn & Rotman whose principal client was the Jamaican government. She also headed the Jamaica Information Service radio unit and the Musson Jamaica Desmond Blades marketing department, freelanced at Dunlop Corbin Compton and launched Donette Chin-Loy & Associates before returning to Toronto in 2000 to join Chang who she met two years earlier at a St. George’s College event in Jamaica.

They are the only husband and wife to be conferred with UWI honourary degrees.

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