The Hon Raymond Chang: A loss we'll not soon overcome
AN article in the January 7, 2011 edition of the Toronto Star probably best captured the essence of Mr Raymond Chang's life.
Aptly headlined 'Raymond Chang: The covert philanthropist', the article highlighted just a few of the many donations he made to worthy causes.
For example, Mr Chang, the article told us, gave Can$5 million to Ryerson University, where the school of continuing education is named in his honour and where he was also chancellor. Mr Chang also gave a total of Can$7 million to fund research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. In 2010, after donating Can$1 million to an academic institution, he turned down a request by the school for naming rights on a chair in medicine and that, the newspaper said, wasn't the first time. The article also revealed that once when Mr Chang won a car on his annual fishing trip in Panama, he gave it to charity.
Locally, we remember him donating Can$100,000 toward the construction of a new building at his alma mater, St George's College, in 2010. More recently, he and his good friend and fellow Jamaican/Canadian businessman and philanthropist Mr Michael Lee-Chin engaged in a bidding battle to persuade Ms Tessanne Chin to sing at a University of the West Indies fund-raiser in Canada. In the end, that friendly battle raised Can$40,000.
While we have been touched by Mr Chang's great heart, we are even more impressed with his humility. For, even as he donated millions of dollars each year to charity, he often shunned publicity.
"It's not about the recognition," he told the Toronto Star in that 2011 interview. "I really am not doing anything different than my grandfather or father, who always gave back."
On the matter of his philanthropy, Mr Chang also told the Jamaica Observer: "Everybody needs help. I can go back three generations. My grandfather, when he came to Jamaica from China, up until he died, couldn't speak a word of English. How did he survive? How did he raise a family? People in the Chinese community helped him. In the days when there was no free education and it was in the middle of the depression, my grandfather could not afford to send my father to school. The priests at St George's at the time said: 'Send him to school and pay when you can.' Everybody needs help along the way and we have to help. Whether it is money or otherwise, we just have to help, and we cannot leave it to the Government."
It was not surprising, therefore, when he was named Outstanding Philanthropist of 2010 by the Toronto chapter of the Association of Fund-raising Professionals. The following year, Mr Chang was conferred with the Order of Jamaica, our fourth highest national honour. And, even on that occasion, he sought to shift the focus from himself with an appeal to Jamaicans in the Diaspora to continue contributing to the well-being of their homeland.
"We have been lucky, as many of us in the Diaspora live very comfortably, and Jamaica needs help," he said. "The fact is, you are your past, and Jamaica has definitely moulded me into what I am today. I can never forget that."
We, in return, can never forget the Honourable Raymond Chang, a humble man with an immense heart.
Our condolence to his family, relatives and friends.
May his soul rest in peace.