Prior to migrating to Canada in November 1972, Justice of the Peace Dr. Odida Quamina learned that two eminent Guyanese scholars were teaching at York University.
The newcomer’s inquisitiveness and desire to meet academic brilliance led to Dr. Rudy Grant, who passed away five years ago, and close friend, Dr. Wolseley (Percy) Anderson, who died last Sunday after a lengthy illness. He was 84.
A senior scholar and professor emeritus since 1994, Anderson impacted the lives of thousands of students in Canada, Jamaica, England, Kenya and Guyana, where he lived, studied and worked for four decades.
Dr. Quamina was one of the lucky students.
“Percy and Rudy’s reputations preceded them, so it was only natural that I would seek them out about eight weeks after I arrived here,” said the former Social Assistance Review Board vice-chair, who was Seneca College’s ombudsman for five years. “Percy was teaching a Caribbean Development and Underdevelopment course at the time which was very popular among his social science students.
“He was knowledgeable, engaging and an outstanding professor who always emphasized the importance of analysis and critical thinking.”
Dr. Anderson’s academic and professional activities revolved around education and social change, race and ethnic relations, diversity in a global village context and strategies and techniques of planning for the development and effective utilization of human resources.
He also had an interest in Canadian-Caribbean relations pertaining to immigration trends and this led him to examine the patterns of adjustment and settlement challenges for Caribbean immigrants as they sought to integrate into their new environment.
In the 1970s while conducting a sociological experiment, Anderson and Grant found that Black children rejected Black dolls in favour of White ones. That sent off alarm bells in the community and forced the Black Heritage Association – the name was changed in 1992 to the African-Canadian Heritage Association – to discuss the implications of the disturbing findings and come up with a response to address the lack of positive self-acceptance on the part of Black children.
“Prior to our contemplation, the pattern of Black community response to group threats was a faceless and needless multitude protesting and losing the impact of its message in the din and clamour of collective community hysteria,” said Dr. Ronald Blake, an ACHA co-founder and creator of Higher Marks Educational Institute.
The first student from his community – West Bank Demerara – to secure a scholarship to attend Queen’s College (QC), Anderson taught at the elementary level at Christ Church and after graduating as the top student at Teachers’ Training College, returned to QC to teach Latin. He was also the vice-principal at St. Swithun’s Anglican School before going to the University of the West Indies Mona campus in Jamaica to pursue a history degree.
Anderson returned to Guyana in 1961 and served as the education officer for the Essequibo-Pomeroon region before winning a scholarship to attend London University, where he studied textbook production and earned a Master’s in Education. He arrived in Canada in 1966 and completed his doctorate five years later at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
In addition to teaching at York University for 31 years, Anderson was associated with several community organizations, including the Black Education Project, the Canadian Alliance of Black Educators, the Organization for Caribbean-Canadian Initiatives, the Urban Alliance on Race Relations and the Jane-Finch Community Legal Clinic, where he served as chair of the board of directors.
“I met him before in 1978, but I really got to know Percy at the clinic where I was the executive director and senior lawyer at the time and also when we both served as members of the consultative committee on Black community and police relations of the Toronto Police Services Board,” said Greg Regis, who is a retired Ontario court judge. “He was very jovial with an infectious laugh and he had a strong interest in the development of the Caribbean community here.”
Anderson was also a consultant and advisor to the Kenyan government in human resource development and planning, a visiting professor at the University of Guyana and a World Bank consultant to Guyana’s Ministry of Education & Social Development.
A visitation will be held this afternoon (Thursday, May 7) at Highland Funeral Home, 3280 Sheppard Ave. E. from 6-9 p.m.
The funeral takes place on Friday, May 8 at St. Margaret in the Pines Anglican Church, 4130 Lawrence Ave. E., starting at 10 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the W.W. Anderson Award in Caribbean Studies York University Foundation, York University Division of Advancement, 4700 Keele St., Toronto, Ontario or Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, 2075 Bayview Ave.
Anderson is survived by his wife of 59 years, Beatrice and daughters, Pamela Grant and Camille Allen.