A community icon worthy of celebration
The January 15 edition of The Royal Gazette contained a full-page celebration of the birthday of Donald “Dick” Dane, an educator and football coach. It featured a collection of wonderful testimonials by some outstanding footballers of our past who have benefited from the mentorship of this community icon.
Dick happens to share the birthdate of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, a globally transformative figure. They both had name changes as preadolescents. Dick has helped foster a transformation in the culture of football on the island. A spirit that he has passed forward, focused on fostering the overall development of players — on the field and the more important game of life.
The spirit that Dick passed forward was grounded in a community collaboration, a transformational movement from which he and others benefited.
As a preadolescent, Dick had faced the challenges of a Bermuda in which segregation limited Blacks to only two established secondary schools — the Berkeley Institute and Sandys Secondary. An initiative by concerned parents in the late 1940s encouraged Edwin Skinner, the retired principal of the segregated Cavendish Primary, to help begin a third option for Black students.
The success of this “beach-head”, in overcoming the challenge of racial barriers, was owing to a collaborative spirit, including Mr Skinner, parents and others, in establishing Howard Academy. Early success included three graduates who became community icons — Pauulu Kamarakafego (the former Roosevelt Brown), Sir John Swan and Ottiwell Simmons.
Mr Skinner died during Dick’s first year at Howard Academy and Edward DeJean answered the call to take up the baton. DeJean was a Canadian who had married a Bermudian, Marion Trott, who had recently come to the island with their very young family. While his tenure in engineering at the prestigious McGill University had ended prematurely because of his military service, he had no formal teaching background. However, he did have a passion for promoting the development of young people.
Under the leadership of DeJean, the Howard Academy movement made progress in spite of scarce resources. That success was leveraged through collaboration with the wider community. Dick was initially interested in pursuing a career in medicine, which required chemistry. Without laboratory equipment, DeJean received the ready support of Frank Dearnley, the principal at the neighbouring Bermuda Technical Institute, a British chemistry specialist, to tutor Dick for his Cambridge exams. Dick’s overall success ensured that he became one of the first graduates from Howard Academy to go off to university.
A further example of collaboration involved Clifford Maxwell, a maths teacher at Tech, tutoring a whole class of many of Dick’s friends, including Kenneth Richardson and Walter “Joe” Stevens, for their Cambridge exams. The success of that group saw many of them going off to Howard University the next year.
Howard Academy not only demonstrated success on the academic front, but also in football. Interestingly, while the Canadian DeJean had only limited knowledge of football, he was able to coach winning teams. It was out of that school success that Devonshire Colts were formed in the late 1950s. Donald Dane returned from university in the early 1960s as a teacher and the iconic coach of Colts.
It is abundantly clear that Dick Dane has made a substantial contribution to the development of so many, as an educator, football coach and administrator. Of those providing the testimonials in The Royal Gazette, three — like their mentor — went on to become coaches of the national football team: Carlton “Pepe” Dill, Gary Darrell and Larry Smith.
As the Bermuda Government looks to promote the improvement of the education system for the present generation, this story, highlighting the tremendous leverage of collaboration in even the most challenging of times, has particular relevance.
One other article in last week’s Gazette, highlighted the contribution of the late Keith Cunningham, of King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. On a personal note, he generously made himself available in his role at the hospital when I taught biology at Berkeley. During a period from the late 1970s through the 1980s, I could rely on Dr Cunningham to facilitate having students — in their penultimate year — making on-site visits to Dialysis, the laboratories and other facilities for live exposure to relevant parts of their curriculum. It is noteworthy that he readily volunteered assistance, notwithstanding his significant responsibilities at KEMH.
As we reflect on the spirit shared by Donald “Dick” Dane, Edwin Skinner, Edward DeJean, Frank Dearnley, Clifford Maxwell, Keith Cunningham and others who have laid a foundation, our community can build on their legacy of generosity and willingness to collaborate, as we work to nurture the potential of upcoming generations.
• Glenn Fubler represents Imagine Bermuda