Career & Education

Mico Gold Medal awardee — Dr Yvonne Shorter Brown

BY FALON FOLKES
Career & Education writer
folkesf@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, November 12, 2017

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Over the next five weeks the Jamaica Observer will feature each of the Mico University College Alumni Association's Gold Medal awardees for 2017. This is the second instalment.

As a teacher and advocate for gender equality, Dr Yvonne Shorter Brown has positively impacted many lives.

In recognition of her efforts, the MOSA (Mico University College Alumni Association) recently bestowed her with its Gold Medal Award, an honour reserved for outstanding Mico past students who excelled in their careers and contributed significantly to society.

The biennial award ceremony and banquet, held at the Jamaica Pegasus on September 16, honoured five people this year — Shorter Brown, Dr Arthur Geddes, Mervis Johnson, Dr Clinton Hutton, and Jeremy Palmer.

Shorter Brown enrolled at the then Mico Teachers' College in 1962, the year of Jamaica's independence, and never looked back.

“When I arrived, there were 50 women and 100 men. Mico was great and I grew intellectually. But socially, it was very difficult because although Mico was founded by the Lady J Mico trust as a co-educational institution, somewhere along the line it became a predominantly male institution,” she shared.

From that moment on, she began making changes and paving the way for other women, in a time when the fairer sex was seen as subordinate. She was very verbal about her opposition to the common practice of ragging, and refused to do some of the things the seniors wanted her to do.

“They expected the newcomers, especially the women, to be subservient to them. To polish their shoes, to butter their toast, and so on, and I would have none of it. I wrote about the ragging that lasted for six weeks. I would not grant their request to be subservient. Many of them really resented me for this,” Dr Shorter Brown told Career and Education.

Other than that, she said, her Mico experience was good and she made the best use of it. She won two significant awards — the Student of the Year award and the Duff Memorial Prize. Nominees for Student of the Year were elected by their peers and went through three levels of elimination. Dr Shorter Brown ensured that she prepared. The prize was a trip to Washington, DC, so she visited the United States Information Service to acquire literature about Washington, DC. Her effort did not go in vain because the interviewers asked her what she knew about the place. She was able to draw on the information she had committed to memory from her research.

“When it was announced at the Little Theatre, where the concert was held, there was significant booing,” Dr Shorter Brown recalled.

“I then went on to win another top prize, which was the Duff Memorial Prize for the most outstanding student in academics in the final year. That really upset them because I was the first female to win it,” she added.

Shorter Brown was not daunted. In fact, she continued to make her mark wherever she went. For example, while teaching at May Pen Junior High, she coached the first set of students at the school who sat Caribbean Examinations Council biology. They all passed. In 1969, she got the opportunity to teach in Canada, which is where her contribution was felt for the remainder of her teaching career.

These days, Dr Shorter Brown is retired, but once a teacher, always a teacher. She has retired into full-time writing; writing that teaches. Her autobiography Dead Woman Pickney: A Memoir of Childhood in Jamaica tells her story while educating readers about Jamaica's history and exploring different themes such as racism, gender inequality and colonialism. The text is used as a teaching tool at the secondary and tertiary levels at schools in Canada and the Caribbean.

Dead Woman Pickney, she said, is an inspiration to women and proof that a bad childhood does not have to hold you back from being successful.

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