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Late grandmother ‘pushed me’ to achieve, says Greene

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Duranda Greene, the outgoing Bermuda College president, was honoured by the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club during Black History Month celebrations on Saturday (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Duranda Greene doesn’t know where she would be today were it not for her late grandmother.

Marguerite Burgess never went to high school but, as she was raising her granddaughter, insisted that she would have a better education.

Her long-term plan was that Dr Greene would attend college.

While her granddaughter was a student at Prospect Primary School, Ms Burgess successfully advocated for her to take the 11-plus exam needed to enter high school a year earlier than her peers.

Dr Greene’s results allowed her to enrol at the Berkeley Institute, then one of two public schools for high achievers.

“She always pushed me,” she said.

It opened a path for her to become the first woman president of the Bermuda College in 2007.

Bermuda College president Duranda Greene’s entry in the 1986 Bermuda College Year Book, the year she started teaching there (Photograph supplied)

Along with Randy, Ellen-Kate and Robert Horton, she was honoured for her work as an educator by the Fairmont Hamilton Princess on Saturday at a gala dinner held in conjunction with Black History Month.

On graduating from Berkeley, Dr Greene entered a secretarial programme at the Bermuda College, which was then located on Roberts Avenue in Devonshire.

She thought that she would become an accountant but couldn’t imagine “sitting in an office just doing numbers and looking at papers all day”.

“That was not for me,” she said.

After two years at the college, she went to Canada, where she first got a bachelor’s in office administration from Acadia University and then a bachelor’s degree in secondary education at Mount Saint Vincent University.

“I had the opportunity to work at a vocational school in Canada for my practicum,” she said.

Then the Bermuda College asked her to teach bookkeeping and computers.

“When I started teaching there in 1986, I never imagined myself one day becoming president,” she said. “It was not a goal of mine to go into leadership at all. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching. I liked seeing light bulbs going off when students understood the material.”

Then she was invited to become a dean. At first she kept teaching, but had to stop.

“I had to ask if it was in the best interests of my students if I was always having to call and say, ‘Something has come up and I cannot get to class today.’”

Solange Saltus, the former vice-president of the Bermuda College, encouraged her to aim higher.

“After I was made a dean, Dr Saltus said, ‘I am not sure what your long-term plans are, but if you want to go any further up this institution you will have to get your doctoral degree’.’’

Dr Greene nodded, left Dr Saltus’s office and did not think much more about the discussion.

“That was just not on my radar at that point in time,” she said. “I was enjoying being in the classroom and also being in administration.”

As Dr Saltus prepared to retire, they had another conversation, and Dr Greene decided that she would go farther. She enrolled in a hybrid doctoral degree programme with a limited residency and received her doctorate of education from the University of Sarasota in 2005.

Always a teacher, she gets her fill of it helping out at Sunday school at Mt Zion AME Church in Southampton.

She turned to her faith during one of the most difficult times in her career.

In May 2015, Bermuda College staff issued a vote of no-confidence in her ability as president. Among their concerns was a lack of leadership and awareness of the realities of the classroom.

“The worst part was not so much that it was a challenge of my leadership, but how personal it got,” she said.

But she believes that everything happens in life for a reason.

“It was a difficult time but it was also a time to learn a lot about myself,” she said. “It increased my faith and also taught me about forgiveness and moving forward.”

The Bermuda College received its re-accreditation that year.

She said: “I told the board we would probably get a renewal for seven years, because their audits were not up to date at that time, but instead we got it for ten years. The next re-accreditation is in two years.”

Dr Greene counts the associate nursing programme, launched in 2012, as one of the highlights of her career.

Many people believed that nurses should have bachelor’s rather than associate degrees.

“The associate degree prepares them to write the National Council Licensure Examination, which is what designates you as a registered nurse,” Dr Greene said. “If you are able to pass the registered nurse exam, and we have an over 80 per cent pass rate, then why can’t they go and practise as a registered nurse?”

She is also proud of the Bermuda College Foundation, which was created in October 2019 to provide continuing, dedicated fundraising support.

“Setting that up took persistence,” she said. “It took three proposals to get it accepted.”

Set to retire on July 15, the 59-year-old plans to enjoy life for six months then continue her work with it.

She also wants to continue to contribute to the reform of Bermuda’s education system as part of the Education Authority Working Group.

“At the Bermuda College we are still seeing a significant number of students who are not college-ready,” she said. “There is work to be done. Education is where my heart is. That is why I have been in it for so long. If I can go to that level and help, I will do that. We want to have an education system as opposed to a system of schools.”

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Published February 28, 2023 at 7:55 am (Updated March 01, 2023 at 7:53 am)

Late grandmother ‘pushed me’ to achieve, says Greene

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