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Empowered women at BPWA gala


The theme marking the gala 36th Anniversary Banquet and Candle Lighting Ceremony of the Business and Professional Women’s Association of Bermuda (BPWA) at the ballroom of the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club was ‘Empowered Women Leading Business’.

Bermuda is one of the 160 or more chapters from all regions of the world that make up the Geneva-based International Federation of B & P Women. It was established here through the initiatives and contacts made by the late Dame Marjorie L. Bean while on a world cruise with Mrs Frances Burch.

The latter passed away two years ago in her 102nd year.

Each year the International Federation sets a global theme. For 2012 it is ‘Empowered Women Leading Business’. And the women spotlighted on the agenda on Saturday night were personal manisfestations of the theme. Among them were Ms Ghislaine Lemany, the mistress of ceremonies, owner and operator of a performance consultancy; guest speaker, Dr Annabel Fountain, Bsc (Hon), MB, BS, MRCP. She is Director of Endocrinology at the Bermuda Hospitals Board.

Retired civil servant Mrs Velda Smith was singled out for this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award. And BPWA’s Woman of the Year Award went to Ms Grace Rawlins. A Berkeley Institute graduate in 1963, she received a BA degree in English Literature from Morgan State College and a Master of Library Science (MLS) degree from Pratt Institute.

Returning to Bermuda after working at the New York Public Library, Ms Rawlins was eventually appointed Head Librarian of the Bermuda National Library, being the first black Bermudian woman to be so appointed. In 1998 she was appointed Director of Community and Cultural Affairs.

A committed member of the Anglican Church, in 2004 Grace was appointed the first Parish Administrator for the Anglican Parish of St George’s. For 26 years she has served as Chalice Administrator and parish worker for St Peter’s, Chapel of Ease and St Peter’s West.

Grace is a charter member of Sigma Xi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. In 2011 she celebrated 50 years as a member of that Sorority, and in honour of that milestone Sorority members feted her with a dinner at Tom Moore’s Tavern. And her chapter members were out in strength to see her honoured as BPWAs Woman of the Year.

The mother of one son, Jeremy, Grace is busier than ever since retiring from the civil service. Inducted as BPWA’s newest member was Patrice Phillips. Aged 23, Patrice in June will complete a two-year management development programe at the Bank of Butterfield where she is employed. The course has included a six-month rotation in the bank’s Cayman Islands jurisdiction.

Patrice graduated from Warwick Academy in 2006. She spent a year in Venezuela through the Rotary International Student Exchange Programme, later attended York University in Toronto, graduating in 2010 with a BA degree in Geography, and is currently pursuing a postgraduate certificate in Geographic Information Systems at Penn State University.

A major highlight of the gala was the introduction by MC Lemay of Dr Yvette Swan, first to invoke a blessing on the evening’s events, and at the end of the impressive Candle Lighting Ceremony to make the closing remarks. A charter member of BPWA, and former president, Dr Swan put Bermuda on the world map when in 1989 she was elected in the Bahamas for a two-year term as president of the Internation Federation of BPW; and again in Nairobi, Kenya, she was re-elected for a second term. At the next International in Japan, she declined an offer for a third term.

A former Minister of Community and Cultural Affairs in the then ruling United Bermuda Party, Dr Swan served in the Bermuda Senate from 1993-98. A committed member of the Wesley Methodist Church in Hamilton, she retired from her practice as an optometrist to answer a strong call to the Christian Ministry. She went to the Atlantic School of Theology in Halifax, Nova Scotia, graduating a year ago with a Master of Divinity Honours degree. She is currently going through an ordination process in Canada.

Dr Swan confided to friends she was happy the Saturday gala gave her reason to come home from Canada’s sub-zero weather, to which she returned on Thursday.

Within hours after receiving her Lifetime Achievement Award at the BPWA’s 36th Anniversary celebration, Velda D. Smith was flying to Edinburgh, Scotland, accompanying her husband Beldwin for honours bestowed on him this week upon his retirement as Grand Superintendent of Scottish Royal Arch Masonic Lodges in Bermuda.

Velda D. Smith for the past 12 years has served as BPWA’s treasurer. She spent 37 years in service of the Bermuda Government, having been among other things Accounts Clerk, Marine & Ports; Senior Clerk, Tourism; Inspector, Department of Social Insurance; Sub-Postmaster, St George’s PO and as the first female Assistant Postmaster General (Central and West, Operations and International Affairs) with the Bermuda Post Office from 1986 until her retirement in 2004.

At the Bermuda Post Office, she was responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the General Post Office and sub offices, serving on the Government negotiating teams (BPSU and BIU), and was the Liaison Officer, keeping the Bermuda Post Office up to date with any changes in international rules and regulations governing post offices globally. She travelled extensively to represent Bermuda at conferences and postal expositions in Hong Kong, Africa, United Kingdom, Canada, United States and the Caribbean.

Mrs Smith was a member of the Bermuda Public Services Association which later became the Bermuda Public Services Union. She joined in 1967, and, since her retirement, has become an honorary life member. She continues to serve on the Election Committee. She also served on several union negotiating teams and was an early proponent of the BPSA becoming a union.

She is associated with Somers Corporate Services Limited and is company secretary to a number of Bermuda international exempted companies. Mrs Smith holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from the University of Maryland, and numerous certificates in Supervisory Management Studies, Organisational and Management Theory and Human Relations/Organisational Behaviour.

Married to Beldwin Smith in 1960, Velda is the proud mother of Terrence (Zolita) Smith; Angela (Timothy) Smith Berry. She is grandmother of Cherri-Ann Smith-Jones; Chamie Smith, Ashley and Megan Berry, and great-grandmother of Ryann, Skylar Smith-Jones and Lailah Parker Smith..

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Published March 17, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 17, 2012 at 8:33 am)

Empowered women at BPWA gala

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