By RON FANFAIR
The second annual Toronto fundraising gala for the University of the West Indies (UWI) was sold out weeks prior to Saturday night’s event at the Four Seasons Hotel.
That was music to the ears of the university’s chief fundraiser, Elizabeth Buchanan-Hind.
More than 450 guests attended last year’s inaugural benefit gala that raised $230,000 and generated 17 scholarships for UWI students at the Mona, Cave Hill, St. Augustine and Open campuses.
Buchanan-Hind expects this year’s event, which will attract about 500 guests, including former Governor-General Michaëlle Jean, will bring in more funds that will allow the regional university to provide additional scholarships this year.
Each scholarship recipient received CAD$3,000 and the rest of the funds is being used to help Haitian students complete their degrees at the UWI. They were enrolled at the University of Port-au-Prince which was destroyed in the January 2010 devastating earthquake.
“We were humbled by the support we received in our first year in Toronto,” Buchanan-Hind, the university’s institutional advancement executive director, told Share. “The event is sold out and we have a waiting list.”
She said the students’ response to the UWI Canada Initiative scholarships has been overwhelming.
“This year’s winners were ecstatic and they have all expressed their gratitude to those in Canada for giving them an opportunity to successfully complete post-secondary education,” said Buchanan-Hind who has been at the university for the past 17 years.
The minimum requirement is a 3.0 grade point average.
In 1997, she and then vice-chancellor Sir Alister McIntyre started a similar benefit gala in New York to raise funds for the university. The initiative was expanded last year to include Toronto.
“In the next two to three years, we expect to go to London,” she added.
Luminary, Chancellor and Vice-chancellor awards will be presented to distinguished Canadians, an academic institution and an adventure travel company.
Jean, who is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Special Envoy for Haiti; billionaire and philanthropist Michael Lee-Chin and Donovan Bailey, who once held the world 100-metre sprint record, are the Luminary awards recipients while vice-chancellor awards will be presented to retired Toronto Police Service deputy chief Keith Forde, the Jamaica Canadian Association’s first female president Kamala-Jean Gopie, orthopedic surgeon and former UWI Medical Alumni Association Canadian president Dr. Karl Massiah; Dr. John Stewart, who was a member of UWI’s first medical class; and author and judge Dr. Irving Andre.
The Chancellor awards are presented to companies or organizations which have contributed significantly to the UWI or who have advanced the well-being of Caribbean residents.
This year’s winners are Ryerson University, which collaborated with UWI three years ago to offer a distance learning program to nursing students in the Caribbean and Gap Adventures founded by Trinidad-born Bruce Poon Tip.
Established in 1990, Gap offers small group experiences, safaris and expeditions around the world.