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Pat Ramsay lands Harvard fellowship

J'can philanthropist selected for university's Advanced Leadership Initiative

BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor — publications davidsonv@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, July 01, 2013    

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GOING back to school was the last thing Pat Ramsay had on her mind. Afterall, the renowned Jamaican philanthropist, who spares no effort to promote Jamaica overseas, has been busy building the island's involvement and profile in the International Women's Forum (IWF).

But her sterling organisation of the IWF World Cornerstone Conference in Montego Bay in May, laid the foundation for her nomination and eventual selection as one of 30 outstanding individuals to benefit from Harvard University's Advanced Leadership Initiative next year.

Ramsay was floored when she heard of her selection last Monday night from Harvard Law School's Professor Charles Ogletree, who was in Jamaica for a function at the Norman Manley Law School.

However, towards the end of last week, the news got better. Ramsay will complete the course with a full scholarship, having been nominated as a distinguished fellow of the prestigious university.

"I just never expected this," Ramsay told the Jamaica Observer last Friday. "At this stage of my life this was not in the books at all."

Ramsay said she was told that she was the first person from Jamaica and the Caribbean to be selected for the programme, which began in January 2009.

Harvard says that the programme "is designed to enhance and leverage the skills of highly accomplished, experienced leaders who want to apply their talents to solve significant social problems, including those affecting health and welfare, children and the environment, and focus on community and public service in the next phase of their careers".

The university explains on its website that "Advanced Leadership Fellows have structured opportunities to exchange ideas with peers and faculty as well as flexible, individualised opportunities to work towards their own goals. They may mentor students, lead study groups, and with faculty permission, sit in on relevant courses throughout many parts of the university".

Ramsay is already clear about how she will use the knowledge and experience gained over the year of study.

"I want to use it to implement programmes for young people, young leaders," she said.

That's not an idle promise, as Ramsay is known for getting things done with great efficiency.

The IWF conference in Montego Bay is a perfect example. On June 10, IWF President Deedee Corradini wrote to Ramsay expressing appreciation for her handling of the May 29-31 conference.

"Words simply cannot express the gratitude that the International Women's Forum has for your leadership of the 2013 World Cornerstone Conference," Corradini said.

"As conference chair, you continued to go above and beyond to make this an extraordinary event. The time, love, and dedication that you put into the programme certainly showed. As you well know, the programme was a huge success and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We are certain all of the IWF members and guests who travelled from 30 nations felt a truly warm welcome to your beautiful country! We were honoured to hold the event in such an inspiring place with so much hope for what the future brings," Corradini added.

So impressed were the IWF officials that they nominated Ramsay for the Harvard programme, which will require her to live on campus for five months of the year, starting January 2014.

"I will go there for orientation December 14-17 this year," Ramsay told the Observer, adding that she must also spend 12 days out of each month in the summer on the campus.

"This is really a natural fit for what I want to do with young leaders in Jamaica," said Ramsay who, the Observer learnt, "blew away" the Harvard selection committee during her interview last month.

But that's not surprising for a woman who served as cultural director of the University of Technology, chair of the Arts Foundation at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, board member of the National Gallery, United Way and the CHASE Fund, and who established the local IWF chapter.

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