January 2019 Volume 15

Helen Douglas receives award in Florida

Everton Bailey
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Former French teacher and Vice Principal of Kingston College Helen Douglas was the guest of honour at the Kingston College Old Boys Association Florida Chapter 20th Anniversary of the Big Purple Session held on October 6 in Cooper City, Florida.

The annual event, which is Kingston College's flagship fundraiser, draws approximately 1,000 attendees from across the globe each year.

Douglas has dedicated the majority of her adult life to the service of Kingston College. Born in Kingston, Douglas, the third of six children (five girls and one boy) to Hilma and Herwald Douglas, grew up in the Maxfield Park area of Kingston and attended Loodon Preparatory School before securing a place at St Andrew High School for Girls.

Upon graduation from high school, she attended The University of the West Indies where she majored in French. She later took additional French courses in France and Martinique.

After college, she worked briefly in the summer with the Jamaica Public Service before a short stint with Wolmer's High School for Girls. It was during her time at Wolmer's that she received a call from the then KC headmaster, the legendary Douglas Forrest, offering her a teaching position at Kingston College.

“I recall telling Mr Forest that I had a commitment to Wolmer's for the remainder of the term, and Ms Pinto, the Wolmer's headmistress, discouraged me from accepting the offer. However, KC kept the position open for me until the end of the term, and I accepted the offer. I was so happy for the opportunity and have no regrets to this day,” she said.

And so, in January 1970, Douglas set out on what was to become a life-long love affair with KC.

“I got lost on my first day going to work at KC,” she said while laughing at the memory.

Despite her youth and relative inexperience, her assertive personality and superb mastery of French, quickly commanded the respect of her young charges. Throughout the years, her role and influence grew beyond teaching French to taking on additional administrative responsibilities such as form teacher, helping to organise KC-sponsored events such as the Gibson Relays, and ultimately serving as vice-principal.

“My most memorable event was the 1975 fire which, while tragic, launched a massive recovery and fundraising effort which served to bring us even closer together as a KC family. My most difficult experience was the debacle regarding Principal Major Cohen's transition from KC, and the public manner in which things played out”, she stated. Douglas was the vice-principal at the time.

“However, this did not spoil my love for KC. I served under several headmasters at KC — Douglas Forest, Don Taylor, John McNab, Major Cohen, and Wally Johnson. Each had their own personality and you learned how to get along with them.”

In 2007, after nearly 38 years of service to Kingston College, Douglas regrettably departed KC after the death of her mother, who was the then principal of Richmond Park Preparatory School, which created a void at the school.

“I felt a compelling duty to carry on her legacy,” she said. Today, as principal of Richmond Park Preparatory School, despite the challenges, thanks to her steady hand, professionalism, years of experience honed at KC, unwavering commitment to educating young minds, and the Fortis spirit of facing adversity with courage, the school is doing well, and more students are now enrolling.

“Ms Douglas was our form teacher, all the way from 1A to 5 Gibson, and easily our favourite teacher. We loved her intelligence, compassion and wonderful sense of style. KC wouldn't have been the same without her,” said KC Old Boy Michael Williams.

Williams's sentiment is echoed by Supreme Court Judge David Batts: “She is dynamic, committed, principled, and will do anything to ensure the success of her students, including giving free French lessons on Saturdays,” Batts said.

“I had a wonderful experience at KC, and I am grateful to God. I would do it all again. I hope the school will continue to prosper and that the spirit will continue”, she said wistfully.

Douglas, the current principal of Richmond Park Preparatory School, resides in Kingston.

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