MANDEVILLE, Manchester - Describing it as an investment for the future, Jamaican/Canadian billionaire Michael Lee Chin on Sunday formally opened the Hyacinth Chen School of Nursing at the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) in Mandeville.
As principal donor, Lee Chin, who is chairman of the National Commercial Bank (NCB) and its parent company, the Canadian money management firm AIC, spent $247 million over the last year on the construction and equipping of the nursing school which is named after his mother, Hyacinth Chen.
The new building boasts state-of-the-art facilities and will accommodate 800 nursing students, doubling the number currently accommodated in the NCU's Department of Nursing.
Addressing a large audience during a thunderstorm and driving rain, Lee Chin said his investment was motivated in large measure by a recognition that, "there is a desperate shortage of nurses in Jamaica". He noted that data from the Ministry of Health indicated that, "the health care system is operating with less than half of the required number of nurses".
Also, he said, it was an opportunity to continue to repay Jamaica for playing its part in his own personal development. He recalled that decades ago the Jamaican government assisted him with a grant as he struggled to complete a university degree in Canada.
"I can never forget when the government of Jamaica stretched out its hand to me, a poor student, enabling me to complete my university degree in engineering. I was happy to fulfil my bond working with the Ministry of Works on the Mandela Highway - such is the importance of the gift of education," he said.
Lee Chin stressed the importance of the new nursing facility to the continued rapid growth of the Seventh-day Adventist-run NCU. "This investment opens a new phase in tremendous opportunity for NCU as it strives to consolidate its position as a prime educational hub in central Jamaica," he said.
He argued that, "institutions of higher learning are critical to every aspect of development at the regional level".
"Wherever a university stands it shines, we cannot succeed in our development goals if we concentrate all our efforts on urban elites. We need strong regional universities as well, as centres of excellence... universities are key drivers of economic growth as they lay the foundations for knowledge and wealth," he said.
Finally, said Lee Chin, his gift of the nursing school was an opportunity to publicly recognise his mother - an example of the "strong Jamaican mother".
"I have been blessed with a great mother who raised her children to believe that the most important values are honesty, kindness, compassion, industry and honour," he told the cheering audience.
Lee Chin unveiled a full-length portrait of his mother done by artist Viv Logan that will hang on the walls of the newly built institution.
Among those paying tribute was the president of NCU, Dr Herbert Thompson.