2017 Hall of Fame Inductees


MRS. CARMEN ACHAM-CHEN

The generation of St Mary’s alumni of the 60s was accorded a singular advantage in the annals of the College by the addition to the teaching staff of this outstanding character. This teacher was unusual both for the stipulated area of expertise and the special function which was to be fulfilled. In his Principal’s report of 1961, Fr. Pedro Valdez, first alumnus of the College to be appointed to that post, spelt out with full clarity his reasons for the latest innovation to the curriculum. These were his words: “At this stage I must report an innovation which we have introduced into our college. I have often bemoaned the very defective way in which our Trinidadian children speak: the wrong use of words, the slang, the lack of proper articulation, the faulty pronunciation. Since 1957 I have been seeking for some way in which to correct all this in our school. At the start of this year we made a big step to attain this end. We employed for the first time in our a full-time Elocution teacher to give classes in proper speech to all the students. From the highest division of Form VI to the lowest division of Form I, every single class gets a 45-minute training period in ‘proper speech’ each week”.

And so it was that Mrs. Carmen Acham-Chen strode on to the stage as the first lady to join the staff at St. L'1ary’s, in January 1961. Recently retired from her position in the Civil Service, “Ma’am”, as she was fondly known and addressed by all the students, was admirably equipped for her new undertaking. Educated in England, she attained a Diploma from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and another from the George Washington University in America, in Group Discussion and Conference Leadership. Little wonder, then, that the impression she stamped on the entire student body was so immediate and appreciated. Fr. Pedro’s intention of providing a teacher in “proper speech” was admirably fulfilled. Correctness of grammar, proper pronunciation, required inflexion and tone were the hallmarks of her contribution. All of this she taught both by her own outstanding example and by her rigorous attention in detail to the offerings of every student. “Better Spoken English” was the required text and it is no exaggeration to state that most have retained that treasured text on their bookshelves. Within the cover of said text there is surely to be found inscribed the mnemonic which we all recited at the beginning of every class. It has never been verified if it was a composition of her own, a veritable masterpiece, containing the sound of every vowel and diphthong in the English Language. It became the chorus line of St. Mary’s students as shall be shown later. It is to be noted that Ma’am never frowned on the acceptable use of the local parlance when it was appropriately used, nor did she ever entertain that any false foreign accent be adopted.

Unforgettable is the Saturday of Inter-Col 1961, a replay versus QRC after a nil-all draw the previous week. Rain had poured, the playing field in front of the Grand Stand at the Savannah had become a quagmire but play went on. The match swayed one way and another until two minutes from full time, as recorded in the 1962 College Annual, “Andy Aleong picked up a pass and glided along the left wing, feinted to the left, turned back on his right and crossed a dipping lobber in front of the QRC goal; and, glorious sight, there was Jeff Gellineau rising like a swallow to flick-head into the far corner”, thus recording a fabulous win for CIC in a vintage intercol encounter.

Justifiably, one may ask, what is the connection between this football victory and Ma’am? If, however, you had partaken in the aftermath of the victory and the celebration thereof, the connection could never have been lost on you! Players, some temporarily passed out from the fatigue of the encounter, all muddied, white shorts turned brown and caked with mud, held aloft on the shoulders of exulting supporters, as the raucous victory parade started at the Grand Stand and wound its way down Pembroke Street en route to the College. Within sight of the college the parade stopped in front of Ma’am’s home opposite the Royal Jail, called for her and there she appeared, in company with her son, brightly beaming, waving and partaking in the ecstasy of “her boys”.... when ... an unexpected silence descended on the throng and chorus-like that elocution mnemonic was loudly articulated: DO PUT WHOLE THOUGHT ON ART, THUS TURN THE SAD MEN GAY WITH ZEAL!! Those were moments of immeasurably abiding joy and must have been among some of the happiest moments of Ma’am’s St. Mary’s career, for she often recalled it in class, proof that she had become an integral part of college life at every level.

Clearly, the contribution Ma’am fashioned at St. Mary’s went beyond elocution. Proper deportment, good manners and gentlemanly behaviour were other arrows that she bore in her quiver of formation that she Who can forget her polite reprimand to a senior student in these words: "Young man, since I last had you in class, I saw you walking along the pavement outside my house in the company of a very lovely young lady, but to my surprise you were on the inside and she was on the outside, having to manoeuvre her path through poles, holes and stanchions. Do remember in the future that the gentleman must be on the outside protecting his lady”. Message delivered not only to an individual but to the entire class, with exquisite class!

To her eternal credit, never was she known to have corrected harshly any student whom she addressed since her approach was always one of communicating with young gentlemen, no exception permitted. She herself being the quintessence of dignity, poise and politeness expected nothing less from her students.
She thus set lofty standards and impeccably guided the young men in her charge to aim for the best ideals of human behaviour. As the first lady on staff, she pioneered the role of the many others who were to succeed her at St. Mary’s. Verily "mulier fortis et amabilis," (a strong, loveable woman), the like of whom the Bible sings her praises. Time has not eroded but indeed increased the debt of gratitude our Alma Mater owes to her, the Grande Dame of the college’s history, for which reason St. Mary’s happily welcomes this day into its Hall of Fame, Mrs. CARMEN ACHAM-CHEN.


CHIEF SERVANT MAKANDAL DAAGA O.R.T.T.

Makandal Daaga (formerly Geddes Granger) was born in Laventille, East Dry River, on August 13, At St. Mary’s College, he displayed outstanding ability not only in academics, but also in sport, debating and public speaking. His love for his Alma mater is demonstrated by his insistence that both sons attend St Mary’s College.

In 1962 he formed an organisation named Pegasus, which comprised of some of the most brilliant and influential personalities in Trinidad and Tobago at the time. It was the first to present a National Awards Ceremony, and a Model United Nations Programme involving secondary schools and youth organisations. Pegasus organised many educational and cultural programmes nationally, and sought to develop national unity and a true sense of Independence.

Makandal Daaga went on to attend the University of the West Indies (UWI) and became one of the most outstanding Guild Presidents in UWI’s history. He insisted that the student was the University, and as such, ensured the students had representation on all major administrative bodies, including UWI's Senate, Council and Finance and General Purpose Committees. He also established outreach educational and agricultural programmes in the urban and rural communities. In 1969, he mobilised the UWI student body to support their fellow West Indian students in the Sir George Williams University affair in Canada.

In 1969, whilst being President of the Guild, the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) was established under his leadership. This organisation has made its mark on Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean and the International arena.

In 1970, NJAC, led by the charismatic and eloquent Makandal Daaga, spearheaded demonstrations with thousands of people, for 56 days, from February to April, demanding fundamental societal change. Consequently, a State of Emergency was declared on 21st April, 1970 and Makandal Daaga and other members of NJAC’s leadership were imprisoned. He was also imprisoned on several other in the 1970s in his struggle for the betterment of the people.

Through these efforts NJAC under Makandal Daaga ’s leadership was able to bring about a sense of sovereignty with major economic institutions placed in the hands of the people, through state control and involvement. There was also the localisation of economic institutions and the formation of the first indigenous bank. A movement was also encouraged to stimulate growth in the agriculture sector.

Makandal Daaga generated a sense of unity between the major races, in particular, the African and the Indian. There was the development of pride in one’s heritage and culture. There was a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood and respect for womanhood and the aged.
Daaga ensured that a key part of the movement was the evolution of the education and consciousness of the people. He believed in ‘Servant Leadership’ - and developed this concept through his role as ’Chief Servant’. Outstanding also was his contribution to the development of calypso, using the staging of the calypso competition as a platform to develop the art form.

Daaga endeavoured to develop a sense of Caribbean consciousness. He was the head of the Caribbean Steering Committee which comprised Caribbean leaders such as Maurice Bishop (Grenada), Eusi Kwayana (Guyana), Tim Hector (Antigua) and Bobby Clarke (Barbados).
Makandal Daaga led NJAC in a successful campaign to have August 1st declared a public holiday in Trinidad and Tobago in 1985. In 1996, Makandal Daaga initiated a campaign, spearheaded by NJAC’s Caribbean Historical Society (CHS), to have August 1st commemorated as Emancipation Day in the Region and throughout the World with noteworthy success.

In 2010, Chief Servant Makandal Daaga was appointed Caricom Cultural Ambassador and served in that post until August when he officially retired due to personal considerations. In 2013, he was awarded the nation’s highest honour the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (O.R.T.T.).

There have been indeed very few leaders who were able to so profoundly affect the landscape of political, social and cultural life in the Caribbean, and to impact on the international arena as Makandal Daaga was able to do.

Chief Servant Makandal Daaga passed away on August 8, 2016.


REV. EVERSON SIEUNARINE

Everson Tuladath Sieunarine was born in Chaguanas on March 31, 1937 to Irwin and Cynthia Sieunarine and from an early age, he demonstrated a call to learning and teaching. He is first mentioned in print in an article in the “Trinidad Presbyterian” magazine of 1945 where he played the role of the young prophet Samuel hearing the voice of the Lord calling him in the night.

He would gather his siblings and other neighbourhood children and teach them how to read and write and give them essay and comprehension exercises. Everson was the first person from the village of St Helena to attend high school and when he began at St Mary’s College (CIC) in the entire community rejoiced. Everson Sieunarine loved CIC and remained lifelong friends with priests such as Fr Lodge, Fr Graf and his French teacher who later became Archbishop Anthony Pantin. During his years at CIC until Higher School Certificate in 1956, Everson continued to teach and inspire children from the community who were encouraged to attend high school.

After CIC, he began teaching at McBean Presbyterian School (then “Canadian Mission” school). He was asked to discern the Lord’s call to ministry and was granted a scholarship to pursue degrees in Arts and Divinity at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick and Pine Hill Divinity School (now the Atlantic School of Theology) in Nova Scotia. Further post-graduate studies followed at the University of Toronto, the University of Chicago and the University of St Louis Divinity School.

He was ordained in 1961 by the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago and served as a minister of the church throughout Trinidad. He was instrumental in the creation of t he new identity of a local Presbyterian Church, independent of any foreign control or personnel. He was involved in the discussions creating the identity, direction and ethos of Hillview College and St Augustine Girls’ High School and was chaplain of both schools.

Everson served as the minister of the Zion-Salem (Tupperville) pastoral charge of the United Church of Canada from 1969- 1972 before returning to Trinidad. He then served as Clerk (now General Secretary) and Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago. He assisted in reviving the training of full-time clergy at the St Andrew’s Theological College in San Fernando and taught Philosophy and Systematic Theology and many other courses there.
Rev. Sieunarine was the first Presbyterian chaplain to the prisons and visited all the centres of incarceration in Trinidad and Tobago. Braving rough seas to go to Carrera each month, he listened to the inmates, prayed with them and helped them rebuild their lives after their release.

Notably, he assisted in the formation and promotion of the Inter Religious Organization of Trinidad and Tobago (the IRO) and the Christian Council of Trinidad and Tobago and was a passionate supporter of religions working together. He received the Holy Eucharist from Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) and had an audience with Pope John Paul II. He met various world leaders and worked with international organizations to promote peace.
After pleas from people in Tobago that there was no Presbyterian Church he established a church on the island. By 1989 the Presbyterian Church in Tobago was officially established by him.

An erudite speaker, excellent administrator, compassionate leader and trusted confessor, he quietly edited and corrected books published by Oxford University Press and others and received books as his reward. He wrote a weekly inspirational column for the Trinidad Guardian and was besieged by letters and calls of appreciation for his insight from people who thought he was speaking directly to them. There was a rabbi in Israel who was appreciative of his knowledge of the Hebrew language and the Jewish religion since Everson was able to detect errors in a book just before it went to publication.

Humbly declining proffered national awards and recognitions, he accepted only a brief post as a temporary Independent Senator in 1997-1998 where he assisted in the passage of the updating of the Summary Offences Act as it related to public marches and meetings.

He was particularly concerned about the welfare of young children so he assisted many primary school children to enter the educational system and to receive books and tutoring. He inspired thousands of children with his wit, humour and inspirational messages designed to appeal to them. Even towards the very end of his earthly journey in 2017, he continued to officiate at school worship at McBean primary school where he had begun his teaching career. The new generation of pupils found that they could relate to him and they shared their tribulations and dreams as he uplifted them with visions for a better, brighter and blessed future for themselves and for the world. Married to Jennifer Grace Sieunarine (nee Mohan) in 1969, both their sons Adrian and Damien are ministers in the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago.

When he died on Ash Wednesday 2017, his family received a tribute on behalf of the government and people of the United States of America which noted his contribution to Trinidad and the world. The tribute included these words:

Rev. Sieunarine understood the importance of education to lift himself and his family from humble beginnings to a high /eve/ of achievement. At the same time, he was committed to bringing others along with him, believing that everybody deserved a chance to improve their lives. He was brilliant and erudite, yet profoundly humble and capable of great warmth and I will always remember my conversations with him, the spark of humanity that burned brightly when he spoke, the intelligence and compassion that made me feel more intelligent and more compassionate myself. Yes, he will be missed, but his impact upon our lives will continue.”


ARCHBISHOP JOSEPH E. HARRIS, C.M.

Fearless and strong....... go the boys of St. Mary’s College,” some of the words found in the Mary’s College Song, aptly describe Joseph Everard Harris, now the 1Oth Archbishop of Port of Spain.

He is certainly a fearless individual who is a ‘Defender of the Faith’ in the truest sense. Very much a ‘no-nonsense’ man, he does not hesitate to make known what is his position on issues such as child marriage, the rights of prisoners, children’s rights, the death penalty, global warming and other critical matters that are engaging the attention of people, both locally and internationally. With all of his fearlessness and strength, he blends those attributes with a spirit of compassion that he brings to bear on his dealings with people.

Archbishop Joseph E. Harris was born on the 19th March, 1942 and was the fourth child and third son born to Conrad Knowlton Harris and Gladys Claire Cardinal and hence a son born to a Cardinal (smile). He attended Rosary Boys’ R.C. Primary School from where he won a College Exhibition to St. Mary’s College in 1953.After graduating from College in 1959, he worked in the Government Service for one year as a Clerk before entering the formation House of the Holy Ghost Fathers. He spent one year at the Novitiate of French Canadian Province of the Holy Ghost Fathers in Ouebec before proceeding to Kimmage Manor, Dublin, Ireland to study Philosophy from 1961 to 1963.

On his return to Trinidad, Archbishop Harris taught at St. Mary’s College for two years and in 1965 joined the Holy Ghost Missionary College, Tumpuna Rd., Arima where he spent four years. Archbishop Harris made his final vows on November 03, 1967 and was ordained a priest on July 14, 1968.

His Grace is a graduate of the Holy Ghost Missionary College, Dublin, Ireland and the Seminary of St. John Vianney and the Ugandan Martyrs, Trinidad. In 1984, Archbishop Harris was a recipient of an MA in Theology from the Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, USA after presenting his Thesis: “Francis Liebermann and the Formation of Third World Students to Religious In 1991, he received a Doctor of Ministry from Me Cormick Theological Seminary, Chicago USA and in 2005 a Master of Canon Law, University of Ottawa and a Licentiate in Canon Law from St. Paul University, Ottawa, Canada. In his quest to become an accomplished Leader and to provide servant leadership in the Archdiocese, Archbishop Harris attended a two-year Clergy Leadership Training, “Good Shepherds, Good Leaders” facilitated by the Catholic Leadership Institute.

Archbishop Harris is committed to Missionary work and responded to God’s call to serve in Paraguay from 1969-1981. He is fluent in Spanish and has a reading knowledge of French and Portuguese. While in Paraguay, he served as Assistant Parish Priest, Santa Catalina, Asuncion, and Parish Priest of San Jose Obrero. From 1973-1981 he was appointed Religious Superior of the Holy Ghost Fathers, Paraguay and taught religion to Form 4 students at Colegio Christo Rey, Asuncion. For the period 1974-1980 he served as the National Chaplain of the Youth Movement Jomadas de Juventud Siglo XX and Spiritual Director in the movement Cursillos de Cristiandad, Asuncion, Paraguay. In recognition of his outstanding professionalism and his teaching prowess, Archbishop Harris was appointed Professor of Religious Studies at the Universidad Privada, and Director of the Pre-novitiate of the Holy Ghost Fathers, Asuncion, Paraguay.

Archbishop Harris illustrious work experience includes working as an assistant lecturer in Spirituality and as a co-Director of Formation, Holy Ghost Scholasticate, Chicago, USA for the period 1982-1984. During the period 1985 -1987, he secured the position of lecturer and Director at this same institution and in conjunction with an assistant, prepared the handbook on formation and coordinated the preparation of the Holy Ghost Scholasticate for the Papal study of American seminaries (1986).

Returning to Trinidad in 1987, Archbishop Harris took up the position as Director of Formation, Tisserant House, Holy Ghost House of Studies, Arouca and served as Parish priest, Holy Trinity parish, Arouca. His vocational experience was evident as he served as Coordinator of the Formator’s Association of Trinidad and Tobago, coordinator with Sr. Julie Peters of the Caribbean Institute of Religious Life, lecturer in Spirituality in the Inter-Novitiate programme of religious Congregations existing in Trinidad, and as a member of the international Ad Hoc committee on Formation of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost.

During the period 1993-1999, His Grace served as National Spiritual Director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, was the Rector of the Regional Seminary of St. John Vianney and the Ugandan Martyrs at it. St. Benedict, and was instrumental in initiating the School of Continuing Studies of the Regional Seminary. In 1997, Archbishop Harris was appointed Provincial Superior of the Holy Ghost fathers, Province of Trinidad, a position he served in until 2003. He was Parish Priest of Anthony’s Church, Diego Martin and in 2000, was a lecturer at the Regional Seminary.

As a qualified Canon lawyer, Archbishop Harris was appointed Associate Judicial Vicar in the Archdiocese of Port of Spain and in 2006 became the Judicial Vicar. He served as Parish Priest of St. Ann’s Church in 2007, and was a member of the Synod Implementation Team in 2009. From 2009-2011 he was appointed Vicar for Priests and then Vicar for Clergy.

His Grace, Archbishop Joseph Everard Harris was ordained Coadjutor Archbishop of Port of Spain on September 14, 2011 and was installed as the 1Oth Archbishop of Port of Spain on December He has written two pastoral Letters, I believe help my Unbelief” (2012) and “Merciful like the Father (2016). During his present tenure, Archbishop Joseph Harris is acutely aware of the ills in society and fearlessly states his opinion on them, and in some cases became involved in offering solutions. He petitioned the Government to free from prison, petty offenders who have remained on remand for an inordinately long time. Archbishop Harris has courageously placed on the agenda reform of the criminal justice system, particularly the issue of petty offences, some of which ought never to have been crimes punishable by incarceration. He was instrumental in forming the Council For Responsible Political Behaviour which comprised of several civil society groups including the IRO and which was set up to encourage moral, lawful and responsible conduct during the 2015 general election. Archbishop Harris is a past recipient of the Chaconia Gold Medal for Religion and the Cadets’ Medal of Appreciation on his appointment as Archbishop of Port of Spain. His Grace continues to serve the Archdiocese of Port of Spain providing leadership to the Clergy while shepherding his flock.


MR.QUINTIN O’CONNOR, C.M.

Quintin O’Connor who was born on October 31, 1908 to Henry and Virginia O’Connor, attended St. Mary’s College in the early to mid-1920s.

The following excerpt from the Foreword written by Jack Kelshall in Lennox Pierre’s booklet Quintin O’Connor - ’A Personal Appreciation’, aptly describes the man that he was: He was a fearless man - a man of iron tenacity. In practically any walk of life he would have been what is euphemistically called “ A successful man”. He was not interested in ma king money or obtaining a position of importance for himself. He died a poor man as he had lived”.

After leaving CIC, O’Connor was drawn to another St. Mary’s College alumnus, Captain A.A. Cipriani, to join the Clerks’ Union in the Trinidad Labour Party (TLP). Following the riots of O’Connor led several clerks who broke away from the TLP to form the Union of Shop Assistants and Clerks (USAC). The USAC was officially registered on August 3O, 1938.

Two years later, O’Connor, along with Albert Gomes incorporated the USAC into the Federated Trade Union (FWTU), which was eventually turned into an ‘omnibus’ Trade Union. With regular advice from the British Trade Union Congress (BTUC) and using a strategy of operating through the Labour Department to gain a reputation for restraint and “straight dealing”, Gomes and O’Connor began to build up the FWTU. When the Americans established a naval base in the Chaguaramas area, the two clandestinely organized the workers, gained recognition as the bargaining agents for them, and successfully resisted “wage fixing.” Gomes and O’Connor also organized the daily paid workers of government and quasi- government enterprises. In 1946, the FWTU, on behalf of these government workers, negotiated its first collective bargaining agreement, which, for the first time in Trinidadian history, linked wage increases to rises in the cost of living index. This agreement was especially significant because it demonstrated that the government accepted the notion of collective bargaining and wanted other employers to follow suit.

During O’Connor’s nineteen years of service to the FWTU, he played a significant role in the Union’s growth and success. Whenever the FWTU engaged in collective bargaining, O’Connor did the majority of the work, including the research, documentation, negotiations and presentations. When bargaining was ineffective or broke down, the FWTU relied primarily on O’Connor to create and implement strategies designed to bring a strike or lockout to a successful conclusion.

Having devoted nearly a decade to the Labour Union movement, O’Connor recognized that the countless divisions and constant competition among Trinidad’s various Unions were some of the most significant obstacles to their success. O’Connor was among the leading unionists of the 1940s who rejuvenated the Trinidad and Tobago Trades Union Congress (TTTUC) by 1948. The TTTUC was considered representative of all organized labour in Trinidad and Tobago and was enabled to enter into block agreements with employers, both government and private. Unfortunately, the unity of the labour movement under the banner of the TTTUC did not last long, as a rift soon opened over the issue of international affiliation.

During his Union career, O’Connor was also a member of the Caribbean Labour Congress (CLC), where he exchanged information on labour conditions and wages throughout the British West Indies, shared his expertise with other West Indian unionists and, most notably, in 1951, effectively assisted in the representation of destitute workers at the Commission of Enquiry established to resolve the general strike in Antigua.

Aside from his Union activities, O'Connor was also politically active throughout his life. He was a member of Port of Spain’s City Council representing the North-East Ward from 1943 to 1950 and 1954 to 1958. He ran for the Legislative Council on two occasions, but was defeated twice. He was constantly active on behalf of a number of social and political causes. I n O’Connor spoke out when he heard reports of the racist treatment of black workers at the hands of white American bosses at the US Naval base in Chaguaramas. During the war, O’Connor successfully opposed the Government’s attempt to pass a Sedition Act which was intended to curtail civil liberties. In 1946, he spoke in defence of panmen and their art when new restrictions were proposed and passed, banning “the playing of noisy instruments on the streets and in public places” without permission from the Governor or Police Commissioner. O’Connor was among the small group of middle class progressive nationalists who defended the steelband movement, seeing in this indigenous art form the embryo of a national symbol. When a Committee was established to consider the extension of the franchise, O’Connor submitted a memorandum on behalf of the FWTU arguing in favour of universal adult suffrage and warning that Trinidad would experience more “1937s” if workers remained excluded from the political system.

Through his Union and political activities, O’Connor gave practical expression to his “radical idealism” and played a fundamental role in the institutionalization of Unionism throughout Trinidad and Tobago. In 1973, he was posthumously honoured by the government with the Chaconia Medal “ For Long and Meritorious Service to Trinidad and Tobago” for his work in the birth and growth of the Trade Union movement. In 1985, the government also commemorated his accomplishments by including him in a series of stamps honouring great Trinidadian labour leaders. The Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union’s library is named in his honour.