Jamaica-based Wolmerian Effiom Whyte has attended his alma mater’s Toronto old students’ annual concert for the last five years.
He has also been instrumental over the years in securing sponsorship from his employer – Air Jamaica – to boost the organization’s fundraising endeavours.
The Wolmer’s Alumni Association Toronto chapter acknowledged Whyte’s contribution with a Champions award at its signature event recently.
The retired Jamaica Defence Force’s commanding officer has been an Air Jamaica pilot for the past 31 years.
“Coming from humble beginnings to have a fulfilling professional career is all because of my Wolmer’s experience,” said Whyte. “That’s why it’s so important for me to try to give back. I am humbled by the thought and the deed associated with this award which will inspire me to continue to put service ahead of self for Wolmer’s.”
Whyte said his passion for flying emerged while he was enrolled as an air cadet at the school.
“I wanted to go into either law or dentistry, but I took an exam while I was a cadet and I came first,” Whyte recalled. “My reward was a half-hour flight in a Cessna 150. I enjoyed the experience and I remember asking the pilot if people actually get paid to fly. Ever since 1967, flying has been a hobby for me.”
When he’s not in the air, the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst-trained soldier is actively involved in several community initiatives on the ground. He’s the president-elect of the Rotary Club of Kingston and a mentor to young Wolmerians.
Iranian-born Siavash Mizrahi was also presented with a Champions award. The York University business graduate and president of Canam-Appraiz – a company that specializes in auctions, appraisals, liquidations and valuations – has been a major sponsor of the alumni association since 2005.
“I am moved to help as many people as I can and to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate, be it in Toronto or any other country,” said Mizrahi who was granted honorary membership three years ago.
The nearly 500 guests included Jamaica’s Consul General George Ramocan, who reminded the ex-students of the role the school played in shaping their lives.
“It was this wonderful institution that gave you a head start,” he said. “There is no way you can disconnect the position you hold in life today, the way in which you think, the challenges you have had to overcome from the great training you received from your alma mater.”
He said the Jamaica government appreciates their fundraising initiatives to help their alma mater.
“The government provides funds to all high schools,” Ramocan said. “However, the level of funding is equal to all the schools and it is organizations such as yours that take our schools to another level. John Wolmer gave funds to start the school and that has never turned back. You have kept that flame on fire and this event brings more to the table in order to do many of the things that are necessary in your school.”
Wolmer’s was established in 1729 when philanthropist John Wolmer bequeathed 2,360 British pounds for the foundation of a “free school”. The Wolmer’s Group of Schools now comprises pre-school and preparatory boys’ and girls’ schools, with an enrolment of almost 4,000.
The Toronto alumni donated almost Can$70,000 last year, the majority of which was spent on the boys’ school library renovations, the girls’ school building repairs and the purchase of a photocopier.
Wolmer’s produced the late Rosemary Brown who was the first Black woman elected to a Canadian legislature; World and Olympic 100-metre champion Shelly-Ann Fraser; former Jamaican Prime Minster Edward Seaga and several West Indies cricketers, including Jackie Hendriks, Gerry Alexander, Maurice Foster, Jeffrey Dujon, Gareth Breese, Carlton Baugh who is in Sri Lanka with the Caribbean side, and the late Ivan Barrow, Karl Nunes and Alan Rae.