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UWI Toronto Benefit Awards 2

Over $400,000 Canadian raised for UWI students at annual Toronto benefit event

The UWI Regional Headquarters, Jamaica W.I., Monday, May 6, 2024—The 15th Annual University of West Indies Toronto Benefit Awards marked another successful year of fundraising supporting scholarships for Caribbean students on Saturday, April 20. Held at the elegant Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Toronto, Canada and hosted by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Anchor, Dr. Dwight Drummond, the gala event was at capacity with 450 guests from executive-level businesses, public personalities, and community leaders. Together, they raised over $400,000 Canadian in one night. 

“We are extremely grateful for the generosity of the attendees, many of whom return year after year for a night of elegance, inspiration, and camaraderie,” said Elizabeth Buchanan-Hind, Executive Director of the Institutional Advancement Division at The University of West Indies (The UWI). “Our theme this year was ‘Lighting the Way Together,’ and through sponsorship, ticket sales, the live auction, silent auction, and personal pledges, funds have been raised to enable more Caribbean students to pursue higher education – the pathway to success.”

During his remarks at the benefit awards event, Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, told attendees, “We are an elite university in this hemisphere, in this world, but I should hasten to add that we are not an elitist university. We are here as a public university for the upliftment of the poor, the empowerment of the historically disenfranchised; we are the engine of Caribbean development and a force for democratic justice.”

Scotiabank, the lead sponsor for the past 14 years, undertook the benefit event again and committed to the same for the next five years to the tune of $500,000 Canadian. Scotiabank was joined by other sponsors, Dr. Donette Chin-Loy Chang, Sprott Inc., BDO Global, Bank of Montreal, and Sagicor Financial this year. 

The annual event is also known for recognising individuals and organisations that demonstrate commitment to the betterment of communities in Canada and beyond or have achieved outstanding success and brought prominence to the Caribbean as well as persons of Caribbean heritage who have made significant outstanding contributions on an international scale in their respective field. 

The 2024 distinguished honourees included the Honourable Mr. Justice Hugh L. Fraser, O.C., FCIArb., CollArb, OLY, Mediator, Arbitrator, and Human Rights Activist who received the Luminary Award; Mr. Raj Kothari, FCPA, FCA, MBA, Business Leader, and Humanitarian who received the Raymond Chang Award; Air Canada, which earned the Chancellor’s Award and the Vice Chancellor’s Award was presented to Dr. Pamela Appelt, OD, Court of Canadian Citizenship Justice (Ret.) and Humanitarian; Mr. Stanley J. Julien, Head, Special Accounts Management Unit, Canada, BMO Bank of Montreal, Business and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leader; Mr. Deland Kamanga, CFA, Group Head, BMO Wealth Management, Financial Specialist and Philanthropist and Dr. Claudette McGowan, Chief Executive Officer, Protexxa, Global Cybersecurity Leader, Business Leader and Philanthropist.

The lively night of entertainment kicked off with soprano saxophone player Miles Raine and his band, The Collective, serenading the cocktail reception attendees as The SwizzleStick Theatre troupe of stilt performers (Moko Jumbies) weaved through the crowd. Toronto’s finest rhythm section, Fiyah Brigade, led the guests into the dazzling ballroom to begin the night’s program, which featured Juno Award-winning singer Divine Brown and soulful singer Aion Clarke.  

One of the highlights was the traditional auction, managed this year by Auctioneer Frances Fripp, BAS, and her team. The Royal Canadian Mint 5 Kilo Pure Silver Coin was a hot ticket item, valued at $13,000, and scooped up over that amount. Among the other items on the auction were a luxury three-night stay at the Harbor Club in St. Lucia, two business class round trip tickets anywhere Air Canada flies, and the first rendition of the National Windrush Monument by renowned sculptor Basil Watson. 

The Patrons of the UWI Toronto Benefit Awards are Dr. Donette Chin-Loy Chang, Mr. Andrew Chang, and Ms. Brigette Chang, and joining them this year were Mr. Kevin Hibbert and Mrs. Ann-Marie Hibbert, both passionate supporters of higher education and the UWI Student Scholarship Fund. Mr. Hibbert was a recipient of the 2023 Vice-Chancellor’s Award.  

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