While meeting with a group of University of the West Indies (UWI) alumni during a 1987 Toronto visit, then bursar, Winston Davis, informed them that all was not well with their alma mater. Some campus facilities were in desperate need of refurbishment and many students faced financial challenges.
Maud Fuller, who was at the Labour Day weekend get-together, sprang into action, pulling together an ad hoc committee that comprised Jean Patterson, Dr. Robert Ogilvie, Winston Tinglin, Carol Scott, K.D. Donaldson and Lynette Spence.
The UWI Toronto chapter soon emerged with Fuller as president, and it would remain that way for the next 20 years up until 2008.
During that period, the local alumni organized biennial concerts, hosted several of the university’s leaders including Sir Phillip Sherlock, Sir Alister McIntyre, Dr. Nigel Harris, Sir George Alleyne and the late Dr. Rex Nettleford to boost fundraising campaigns. They refurbished the Mona campus commuter lodge and also awarded scholarships.
To mark its 25th anniversary this year, the Toronto alumni paid tribute to Fuller at its annual fundraising brunch last Sunday in Mississauga.
“This chapter is a monument to Maud,” said graduate, Jean Ford. “It is testimony to her vision, leadership, organizing ability, determination and sheer will power to bring it into being and make it a continuing success…Her commitment to the well-being and future of the university is unquestionable. It has been enriched and inspired by her unceasing devotion.”
Dr. Ogilvie also acknowledged Fuller’s leadership, adding that he has been inspired by her determination and imagination while Spence noted she’s a woman of vision and action.
“Contributing to supporting students’ outcomes and the continuing improvement of the university were her singular focus,” Spence said. “She had found her starfish which was the university and its students. In this chapter, she was the initiator, facilitator, participator and Grand Dame. Under her leadership and stewardship, meetings were not just called to order, but they were roused to life. She demanded full immersion and attention from committee members as she presented idea after idea for fundraising for her beloved university and its students.”
Patterson, a former secretary, presented an Award of Honour to Fuller.
In acknowledging the recognition, Fuller said she was gratified to have started something that she is confident will last.
“This organization deepened my commitment to serve the UWI that I love so dearly and defend so passionately,” said Fuller who was a special education teacher with the Toronto District School Board for many years. “I might have gone to the University of Toronto, but it’s UWI that has my heart.”
She said she has already made a request for her ashes to be blessed in her favourite chapel at the Mona campus before they are interred in her mother’s grave.
Two years ago, Fuller – who also pursued higher education at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in England and was a U of T Faculty of Education lecturer – was presented with a Vice-Chancellor’s Award at the UWI’s inaugural Toronto fundraising gala.
The UWI was established in 1948 as the University College of the West Indies (UCWI) in a special relationship with the University of London.
The alumni chapter donated $4,000 to the university’s scholarship fund last year.
By RON FANFAIR