Dr. Anna Jarvis admits feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed after learning she was selected to be a recipient of a Vice-chancellor Award at the fifth annual University of the West Indies (UWI) Toronto benefit gala on March 29.
Just before Jarvis’ second birthday, her late father – renowned poet, educator and cricket enthusiast John Figueroa – left Jamaica to pursue postgraduate studies at London University where he subsequently became a faculty member.
In 1953, Sir Philip Sherlock – the director of extra mural studies and deputy principal in the fledglingUniversityCollegeof the West Indies (UCWI) – and founding registrar Sir Hugh Springer – successfully recruited Figueroa to return toJamaicaand become the university’s first West Indian chair and dean of the Faculty of Education.
Back inJamaicaat age eight, Jarvis resided with her family at the campus’ Number 1 and 2 bungalows until she married in September 1970 and migrated toCanadathree weeks later.
“In a sense, the UWI was really my only home in Jamaica,” said Jarvis who graduated from its medical school in 1969 and did rotating internships in paediatric medicine, neurosurgery and general surgery at the university hospital. “This is almost like your family recognizing you and, for me, it’s a little awkward to be receiving an award.”
Jarvis – the first recipient of the Project for Advancement of Childhood Education (PACE) Founder’s Trophy – still harbours some fond memories of her association with the university that was established in 1948 as UCWI in a special relationship with the University of London.
“The UWI was a magical place back then,” she said. “It was the hub for people of the Eastern Caribbean and the idea was that we would build our own base of leadership since the talk of independence was in the air and it was felt that it was time for us to take some responsibility for our welfare. The people there were visionaries with high ethics and intelligence and the families on campus were very involved in the university. I made photocopies for my father and helped to organize some of his work for classes and some of the wives did gardening and prepared dishes for university visitors.”
With the exception of the youngest child Esther who received her post-secondary education in the United States, all the Figueroa siblings attended UWI.
Peter graduated with a BSc (Hons) degree in physiology in 1969, a medical degree three years later and a Diploma in Public Health with Distinction in 1975 and is a Professor of Public Health, Epidemiology and HIV/AIDS at the university where he developed a doctorate program in public health.
Mark, is a professor in the department of economics where he secured his undergraduate and graduate degrees while Catherine – a nun who secured her first degree there – is enrolled in the Master of Divinity program. Thomas, a former Jamaica chess champion who died in a vehicular accident in 1975, and Bobby who completed his undergraduate degree in England, were both enrolled at UWI.
Certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in 1976, Jarvis taught at the University of Toronto and created, implemented and supervised The Hospital for Sick Children paediatrics department’s clinical fellowship program in paediatric medicine for 13 years.
While Jarvis was the hospital’s emergency department medical director, she initiated a program that brought international graduates from around the world to learn North American pediatric emergency medicine.
Though retired from the hospital since 2010, Jarvis spends time teaching and mentoring in Canada and the rest of the world. She’s also an external examiner and highly requested speaker for global pediatric emergency conferences.
Last year, she was among the first batch of distinguished alumni inducted into the Immaculate Conception High School Hall of Fame in Jamaica.
Other Vice-chancellor Award winners this year are entrepreneur and philanthropist David Taylor, celebrity chef and recording artist Roger Mooking, entrepreneur Delores Lawrence and Rev. Peter Fenty who was last year ordained the Anglican Church of Canada’s first Black bishop.
Luminary Awards will be presented to former Canadian Member of Parliament Hedy Fry, Jamaican reggae fusion recording artist and last season’s The Voice winner, Tessanne Chin and Jimmy Cliff, the only living Jamaican to hold the Order of Merit which is the highest honour that can be granted by the Jamaican government for excellence in the arts and sciences.
The Hospital for Sick Children will be the recipient of the Chancellor’s Award.
Funds from the event help to deliver scholarships to UWI students.