Dill recognised value of lifelong learning
“Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching.”
This quote from Nelson Mandela reflects a theme that guided the life of the late Junior Maynard Dill. For years, Maynard sought to nurture his own development and that of others. Earlier this year, Maynard, with a full plate of responsibilities, completed a Bachelor's Degree through the online programme of the University of Phoenix, at the age of 61.
I began working with Maynard when I assumed the role of Labour Relations Officer in the mid-90s. At that time he served as the president of the Electrical Services Trade Union (ESTU) and I became aware of his openness to thinking “outside of the box”. In his most recent opinion piece, Chris Famous — a fellow Belco worker — documents some details of the progress made for employees during that presidency.
Maynard's leadership opened the ESTU to the innovative, win-win negotiation approach, securing progressive benefits for Belco employees, including enhanced training programmes. The upgrading of skills that followed resulted in a significant improvement in the employment of Bermudians.
However, while Maynard recognised the importance of upgrading skills — he went further by committing to promoting the development of the whole person. I became aware of Maynard's passion in this regard, when we travelled together, as part of the local delegation for the annual International Labour Conference in Geneva.
Maynard had played a key role in establishing the Bermuda Trade Union Congress, serving as its first president. In that capacity he joined other union, employer and government representatives, attending the ILO Conference. The weeklong event included delegates from nearly 200 countries in a variety of discussions on global employment standards, innovation and it offered a variety of educational opportunities.
During those times that I attended, there was no other local delegate to the ILO Conference that was more involved than Maynard. Known for his passionate engagement in sessions, he went over and above, often among the last to leave. Maynard had embraced the ILO philosophy of inclusivity and respectful dialogue in order to access the best from all involved. With a healthy trust in himself and the humility for being open to learn, Maynard sought to appreciate the “big picture”.
It was that goal which arguably offers some parallels between Maynard and Mandela. They both served as key leaders of their particular political parties during challenging periods in their respective countries. However, that commitment — in both cases — only reveals part of their personal stories.
A few months ago, little did I know that I was enjoying my last discussion with Maynard. Ironically I was on my way to a meeting exploring the importance of lifelong learning, when we bumped into each other. As I was explaining efforts to promote a ‘learning culture' locally, Maynard revealed his recent success in completing his Bachelor's degree, reporting that he had already signed up for a Master's programme.
To be clear, Maynard wasn't interested in accumulating ‘paper'; but his passion was a commitment to the premise to “never stop learning”.
Mandela had demonstrated that learning is possible in any situation; be it with “friend or foe” — fostering a learning culture on Robben Island, that successfully encouraged fellow prisoners and guards to do distance-learning. Mandela's approach resonates with the ILO philosophy that Maynard appreciated.
Whether that part of Maynard's story would have eventually impacted the local political dynamic, had he survived his health challenge, remains an open question.
That said, Maynard's legacy for Bermuda, includes; his contribution to the ETSU, his part in establishing the BTUC and his role as chairman of the Progressive Labour Party.
However, I believe his most potentially empowering legacy is his example; reminding each of us that “life never stops teaching”.