Annual UWI Toronto Benefit Awards and fundraiser expects a spectacular night

Award-winning actor Sheryl Lee Ralph will receive the “Luminary Award’’

By Lincoln DePradine

Donette Chin-Loy Chang

Toronto organizers, who are just weeks away from an annual event in support of the University of the West Indies (UWI), will be honouring a well-known Caribbean-American actor at what they’re promising to be a “spectacular night’’.

Award-winning actor Sheryl Lee Ralph will receive the “Luminary Award’’ at the April 29 event at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in downtown Toronto.

She’s on the list of honourees for the annual “UWI Toronto Benefit Awards’’ that are used as a fundraiser to assist student achievers at the University of the West Indies.

“We look forward to a spectacular night at the UWI Toronto Benefit Awards; a great tradition of raising much-needed funds for Caribbean students, whilst celebrating outstanding community and global leaders, examples that we hope the students will emulate,” said Dr. Donette Chin-Loy Chang, UWI Toronto Benefit Awards’ co-patron.

The theme of the 14th edition of the awards’ ceremony is, “Beyond Our Imagination’’.

“You will see the full arc of dreams imagined and dreams realized – both for students, our honourees and our valued donors,’’ said Chin-Loy Chang, whose co-patrons are Andrew Chang, Brigette Chang and Dr. Wes J. Hall.

Sheryl Lee Ralph

The event is supported by several sponsors, including the G. Raymond Chang Foundation, Scotiabank, Sprott Inc. and Kingsdale.

Altogether, the UWI Toronto Benefit Awards have raised more than $3 million and distributed 800 scholarships.

“The event supports a scholarship fund for outstanding academic achievers in the Caribbean, who lack the funds necessary to realize their fullest potential. It also recognizes greatness and tireless work through our honourees, who continue to shine a light of hope for the next generation,” said Elizabeth Buchanan-Hinds, executive director of the University’s Institutional Advancement Division.

Lee Ralph was born in the United States to a Jamaican mother. She was raised between Long Island and Mandeville in Jamaica.

Last October, she was presented with the Order of Jamaica – the country’s fifth-highest honour – that is given to “citizens of outstanding distinction’’.

Along with Lee Ralph, others to be recognized at the April 29 event in Toronto include the Black North Initiative (BNI), a social justice initiative designed to remove anti-Black systemic barriers negatively affecting the lives of African-Canadians. BNI will be presented with the Chancellor’s Award.

Dr. Dodridge Miller, Group President and Chief Executive Officer at Sagicor Financial Company Ltd, is getting the G. Raymond Chang Award; and, there are two Vice-Chancellor’s Awards.

Kevin Hibbert, Chief Financial Officer and Senior Managing Partner & Co-Head of Sprott Inc., is one of the recipients of the Vice Chancellor’s Award.

The other is going to Ray Williams, Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Financial Markets at National Bank Financial.

After the awards’ ceremony and dinner, a second gathering – themed, “Rooted-Ready-Rising’’ – will be held in honour of the 75th anniversary of the founding of UWI.

UWI, many of whose graduates now reside in Canada, has a student population of 50,000 spread across its campuses, and has partnerships with other universities in North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe. 

UWI, ranked among the top universities in the world, offers more than 800 certificates, diplomas, undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in culture; creative and performing arts; food and agriculture; engineering; humanities and education; law; medical sciences; science and technology; social sciences; and sport.