April 2024 Volume 20

Derrick R. Wright

Staff reporter KC Times
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Who I Am in a Nutshell
Derrick R. Wright: Deacon, family-man, lecturer/technical consultant, and one who is firmly committed to community service. Those are not my words; those were the unscripted words of a close associate from the National Organization of Jamaican and Supportive Organizations (NAJASO), when he introduced me as the moderator for a panel discussion in Montego Bay.

That's me, in a nutshell, though. Ironically enough, I have long lectured young people about the need to have four particular dimensions to their lives; prioritized in the order the NAJASO associate had mentioned them. First is religious faith based on a strong belief in God. Second: one's family. Third: one's career/profession. Fourth: service to the community.

So, there you have it! Need I go on any further with the introduction? My KC associates want to know me better, they have said. This is especially so since I was recently elected to a two-year term as a director on the Board of KCOBA, Atlanta Chapter.

My Schoolboy Days: A Brief Summary
I attended KC January '63 – June '68. Those who started KC after 1963 might wonder how it was that I started in January instead of September. They might not realize that prior to September 1963, the school year started in January. So, in September 1963, I received a pleasant surprise when I was promoted to Form 2A, after just nine months in Form 1A.

Of all my teachers at KC I had two favorites, not counting our beloved headmaster "Dougs" who filled in as a teacher from time to time. Interestingly enough, my two favorites taught mathematics. They were Mr. MacDonald and Mr. Bramwell.

We lost Mr. MacDonald recently, as I am sure you know by now. The sentiments I expressed when I heard of his passing showed clearly how much I adored and respected him as a teacher. In essence, I said that Mr. MacDonald made quite an impression on me when, in 1963, he taught me mathematics in first form. He stood out in my memory more so than any other teacher at KC. He could draw triangles and lines and bisect an angle on the board with laser-like precision in a flash. Further, his well-earned reputation as a highly skilled, committed teacher, and his knowledge of the subject, along with his level of professionalism, were admirable traits, indeed.

It is always difficult to hear of the passing of truly devoted professionals such as Mr. MacDonald. He touched so many souls.

Beyond mathematics, Mr. Bramwell reinforced with me a number of important lessons related to priorities. As an example, I would shine my shoes back then until it glistened, basically. Of course, I would become terribly upset when, invariably, someone would step on my shoes. Although as a child I used to recite many proverbs including one related to this particular situation, it was Mr. Bramwell who actually saw my daily disgust, and who took me aside one day and gave me a truly practical and meaningful lesson to show, essentially, that "all that glitters is not gold."

On a completely separate note, I did not play competitive sports at KC. The closest I came to playing football, for instance, was when I played desk-top money football. Everyone played that, it seemed. Certain guys were highly skilled at it, too.

At cricket (non-competitive cricket, to put it more precisely), it was a different matter, somewhat. Of course, if one could not shine at Clovelly, he would head to other grounds after school seeking his "15 minutes of fame."

In actuality, I had earned the nickname "Rohan Kanhai," based primarily on the flair I usually demonstrated as I would stroke the cricket ball when I was at the crease after school at Race Course. I would play with KC schoolmates such as Clinton Cole (now deceased), Howard Gilroy, Liston Ogilvie (now at Gleaner), Sheldon McDonald (of PNP-YO fame), Barrymore Williams (now residing in NY), and many others.

As I recall, there was a "wicked" pace bowler from a high school not far from Race Course who I would frustrate to no end (no pun intended). We called him Salty, quite possibly because of the tears he supposedly brought to the eyes of many promising cricketers.

I didn't try too hard to hit Salty's pitch (I prefer the noun "pitch" at this point), for fear that I would miss and suffer the humiliation of getting my wicket (stumps) knocked to the ground. So I would pester him with a defensive "no" every time he bowled, and that would make him mad as hell. Of course, my mere ability to hold the wicket would not have been enough to earn me a spot on any decent team anywhere, let alone on any of the mighty KC teams.

After KC: Working in Jamaica
I left KC in 1968 and did a stint working for the Jamaican government. I worked with the Collector General's Department, before leaving for greener pastures as a recruiter with the Shipping Association of Jamaica on Jamaica's volatile waterfront.

I soon migrated to the USA in 1970, but returned home to Jamaica after a year when my mother became gravely ill. She passed away in 1972.

I worked in Jamaica again, that time at the Income Tax Department, in auditing. Generally speaking, one had to have passed mathematics in GCE to work at Income Tax and Statistics at one time back then.

One of the most memorable projects on which I worked at Income Tax was a project which sought to get "non-subscribers" to join the tax rolls. Based on intelligence that we had collected, we would "summon" certain business owners to an audit if certain factors were in conflict.

In one particular case way back then in the 1972 we had a response from a well-known business that operated in the Torrington Bridge area of Kingston (many of you had frequented that place of business, I am sure). Most business owners usually turned up at the tax audit to plead their case personally. In that particular case, incredibly, the owners sent two of their workers from the night shift to plead the case.

Needless to say, the female business representatives had interesting propositions as to how the projected income tax debt may be lowered or, more precisely, "rubbed out." I am pleased to say that as an honorable Jamaican government representative I didn't "take the bait." A number of associates opined that my loyal actions were positive reflections of my character and will.

Back in the USA
I returned to the USA after a while and started college fairly shortly thereafter. I earned a BS in Computer Technology from the University of New Haven, and an MS in Technology Management later in Atlanta from Mercer University. I completed post-graduate management studies at the Georgia Tech Management Institute (as the business school there was called at the time), and conducted doctoral-level research in information systems at Nova in south Florida.

On the US job front, I joined the Bell System as a systems analyst in 1978, but soon transferred to Atlanta where I worked with BellSouth as a manager of systems development. During my tenure as a systems development manager I spent many years developing and publishing "Foresight," a technical journal for the executive department. In addition, I had years of experience designing/developing multi-million-dollar, state-of-the-art, decision making systems for the executive department, among other responsibilities.

I left BellSouth in 1996 for more challenging work as a technical consultant to organizations such as the Department of Energy, Boeing (Seattle), Guam Telephone Authority, and the Bermuda Telephone Authority. As much as I was enjoying the on-the-road assignments and accomplishments, the road took its toll on me eventually.

My next venture was into the world of academia. I have lectured for a number of years at the undergraduate level at various institutions including Berry College and Mercer University, and at the graduate and undergraduate levels at Southern Polytechnic State University, among other fine institutions. Incidentally, with 28,000 acres, Berry College has the largest college campus in the world. With expansive fields, forests, lakes and mountains, the scenic beauty on campus is nothing short of spectacular. I thoroughly enjoyed my five years there.

Community Service
In terms of community service, I was the president of the Caribbean Association way back in my early college days. I joined the Atlanta Jamaican Association (AJA) later in 1981, and served in various capacities. My first seat on the AJA Board was as the assistant secretary. From there I went on progressively to become the secretary, vice president, president (for three terms), and a Board of Trustees member during separate periods over several years. In fact, I am one of three individuals with the distinction of being an AJA life member, and the only person to have served in a purely leadership capacity as chairman of an AJA steering committee.

Separately, I am currently vice president of the NAJASO-Marcus Garvey Heritage Trust, a foundation that provides 4-year scholarships to deserving University of the West Indies students. In addition, I am chairman of the NAJASO outreach committee. On a related note, in July 2006 I will be moderating a NAJASO panel discussion in Silver Spring, MD., on the topic of leadership.

At a March 2005 NAJASO meeting in Hartford a Jamaican government representative updated the meeting attendees on the state of affairs of the system of education in Jamaica. The representative covered points raised in a published report. The report, "A Transformed Education System – 2004" was prepared by the Task Force on Educational Reform. It was formally presented to the prime minister in September 2004 by Dr. Rae Davis, Chairman of the Task Force.

The report painted a gloomy picture overall of the state of education in Jamaica. One key issue was in the area of student academic performance. The report stated that "student academic performance relative to the targets set in the Government White Paper on Education, as well as performance in national examinations, indicate that the entire system is performing poorly."

With those stark realities in mind, I embarked on a program to provide assistance to a number of Basic Schools in Jamaica. So far I have worked in the Lilliput, St. James and Sav-la-mar, Westmoreland areas, in my capacity as the NAJASO outreach committee chair. Along with my Atlanta Jamaican Association counterparts, we have been able to provide various levels of assistance to two Basic Schools, and to several hundred residents in the two underserved communities. What has been done so far under my leadership is just a small start of what we hope will be major strides, ultimately.

Church and Family: Two Most Important Dimensions
Several years back I was installed as a Central Christian Church (Atlanta) deacon. As such I served on the Board of Deacons, and I quite often prepared and delivered lessons on various aspects of Christian life. From time to time I also served as a motivational speaker to Central's young people. In addition, I served many years as the chairman of the church's financial committee.

I have been married for twenty five years to the former Merthella Hurd. She is a quality assurance engineering manager in the construction industry, and she has nationwide responsibilities.

Merthella and I have two grown daughters. Our elder daughter, Dayna, lives in Lawrenceville, GA. She will be graduating with a master's degree in July 2006. Our other daughter, Davene, is pursuing doctoral-level studies in Boston, MA.

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