Scholarship to honour departing diplomat

By RON FANFAIR

Madeline Blackman will soon be returning to Antigua & Barbuda after serving her country for almost three decades as a diplomat in Toronto.

Her name will, however, continue to resonate in the city through a scholarship launched last Friday night at a community farewell reception.

To be administered by the Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA) through their national scholarship program, the first Madeline Blackman academic award for $3,000 will be presented next year to a Canadian citizen or permanent resident whose parents are of Antiguan & Barbudan heritage.

“As most people will know, Madeline has always stood for three very important things,” said lawyer Verlyn Francis, who announced the scholarship initiative. “She has a passion for her country, the arts and education and this is a fitting way to honour her.”

Students between the ages of 17 and 30 studying the arts at a college or university can apply for the scholarship before the application deadline of May 30.

Blackman joined the Antigua & Barbuda Tourist Board at age 18 and came to work in the Toronto office in 1977. She served as consul, director general of tourism and consul general for the past 10 years.

A graduate of St. Clair College of Applied Arts, Blackman was a member of the Community Players of Antigua and the Holy Rosary Gallery Choir.

Acting Dean of the CARICOM Consul Corps in Toronto, Michael Lashley, was among diplomats and community leaders paying tribute to Blackman.

“My very first impression of Madeline when I arrived here was one of professionalism,” said Lashley, who is the Trinidad & Tobago Consul General in Toronto. “Long before I became the Dean (of the Consular Corps of Toronto) and a member of the Board of the Consular Corps Association, one of two persons I called the most for advice was Madeline.

“It became clear to me that, in addition to her management talents and her commitment to various things, she was an intellectual. I am one of those that don’t have a problem with having very close to me the very brightest of the bright. Instead of feeling insecure, I feel comforted and inspired and she has definitely inspired me.”

Honorary consul general of St. Kitts & Nevis, John Allen, also commented on Blackman’s long tenure as a diplomat in Toronto.

“Antiguans & Barbudans have staying power and longevity,” he said. “That’s clear to me because of Madeline’s long run here and also because my godmother, who is Antiguan, celebrated her 105th birthday this year.”

Allen met Blackman for the first time when she became consul general in 1999.

“The experience that she has brought to her post has been paramount,” he said.

Antigua & Barbuda Association of Toronto president Lois Lee said Blackman is a perfectionist and dedicated servant who has never shied away from attending a social event in the Antigua & Barbuda community in the Greater Toronto Area.

“You have always represented us with grace and dignity,” she said.

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