The Notorious FCW

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The Notorious FCW

Noted Jamaican scientist, educator and A-QuEST founder Dr Dennis Minott's character reference for Fitzroy Wickham to the Rhodes Scholarship Committee

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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This character reference is in support of the Rhodes Scholarship application by Fitzroy Christopher Wickham. I often think of Fitzroy as “The Notorious FCW” who has already bequeathed legacies to A-QuEST, to York Castle, to Brown's Town, to Wesleyan University and, even after just a few days, to the Obama White House.

About six years ago, the principal of York Castle High School, Mr Raymon Treasure, contacted me to ask whether I would be able to mentor his most outstanding student. I agreed and the school undertook to pay most of his A-QuEST fees. I tutored him personally by live video-link four-plus hours per week for over two years before we first met person-to-person. By then, his nutric (as completely opposed to toxic) personality and hectic leadership involvements convinced me to ask Principal Treasure if York Castle could verify his age. The principal laughed out very loudly.

A few weeks later, he and his colleague principal at St Hilda's invited me to Brown's Town. They arranged to have Fitzroy and his widowed mother meet and escort me to the respective schools. That is how Fitzroy finally slapped me a hearty high-five and saluted me with an abrazo. (No varsity volleyball player should either slap high fives with or give abrazos to senior citizens.) Only then did it hit me that this intellectual giant of a Jamaican Thespian was a big-chested five-footer.

I knew that he had, by then, overawed all contestants in Church Bible quizzes and outperformed all 50,000-plus contemporaries in CSEC three years earlier. A look at his CSEC certificate showed that he had received all of 12 distinctions at one sitting and each but one of his profile grades was an A. The occasion for that solitary (physics) B (of AAB ) offers a peek into Fitzroy's character.

His physics lab reports for fifth-form had mysteriously gone missing from the science department at York Castle nine days before the deadline for submitting SBAs to CXC. Instead of abandoning the physics examination, he dropped all other work, toiled day and night, drew on the notes of his lab partners, completely rewrote all 20-odd labs and submitted the work... but not in time for his documents to be included as a sample to CXC.

As a physicist who taught the subject at university, I consider FCW's feat a testament to his indomitable spirit and intellect. Despite that most trying situation, he calmly earned a distinction in physics as well as in all the other 11 courses, despite his extreme sleep deprivation. According to his mother, his involvements in drama, plus myriad other extra-codal and in-school government activities did not suffer.

The Notorious FCW is a glutton for punctuality, courtesy and preparedness. Working with him online and mentoring him through undergrad years gave me ample opportunity to notice these ways about him. His A-QuEST peers from the Brown's Town region all bear matter-of-fact witness to his complete lack of arrogance. None of us could ever marvel in the least at his magna cum laude from Wesleyan.

His repute as a leader owes much to his unfailing empathy and uncanny emotional intelligence. It is for that, among a host of stellar qualities, that he was spotted (as Mr Treasure assured me) as their future head boy from his second form year at York Castle. He was also unanimously voted the online class president of the several highly ambitious youngsters that enrol in our group from throughout Jamaica.

Fitzroy is kind-hearted, overly trusting and diplomatic, but this repeat American Mock Trial Association champion is a razor-sharp critical thinker. I recall that I once set the entire online class, here and abroad, an extended task to decipher the plot, discern the deeper issues and spot instances of subtle humour in the Farah Khan-produced and directed Bollywood block buster Om Shanti starring Shah Rukh Khan. The film is in Hindi, without any sub-titles.

To the best of my knowledge, FCW knows no Hindi and certainly no Urdu. Now, though I had lodged with Hindi and Urdu speakers for several years, it took me many months to move beyond merely savouring Bollywood music. Yet, to my shock, he aced the exercise after a few hours of intensely viewing the film. The closest anyone else in our group came to Fitzroy's score in that exercise was about 20 per cent. He even picked up most of the subtler pieces of irony and humour across the cultural divide.

It came as no surprise when he copped the Governor General's Award for Youth and shortly thereafter got invited to hob-nob with some of the black world's coolest emerging servant leaders, tech leaders, tycoons and royalty at a strategic sort of mini-Davos hosted by and at the Obama White House.

It seemed only natural that FCW's notoriety has flourished in academia, research, residential life, student government/politics, volleyball and theatre. When in the past academic year FCW moved up, via democratic election, from leadership of all resident assistants for three of seven halls on his university campus, to being the senior class president of the entire 800-plus cohort of seniors at Wesleyan, I had to inquire why he, “man-o-yaad”, had uncharacteristically dodged election to the next and highest post — president of the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA).

Below is a highlighted excerpt from his own e-mailed response to my mildly puzzled head-scratching:

“... I played an instrumental part in Wesleyan having its first competitive presidential election in a long while. Since I have been here and even before I came, each president ascended to their position from uncontested elections. This did not sit well with me as it was very undemocratic. The past elections were even more concerning since the individual(s) running uncontested had been involved in a situation where they abused their power, resigned to cover (expunge) their impeachment and then blackmailed other potential candidates that resulted in them resigning.

“The wider school body was not privy to this information and the victim of the incident that started it all tried getting the school newspaper to tell her story, or at least inform the public of what happened. These journalists did no such thing. Given my position in ResLife, I was entrusted with this information, and moved by my moral obligations I decided to expose what the assembly had been covering up, which resulted in the lone candidate ending their campaign.

“Following this, several candidates came forward to participate in the university's first contested WSA presidential election in a long time! For a while I questioned my bold move and reflected on whether I had made the right decision, but given how well the current president has worked with the current administration to prepare the university for reopening amidst the pandemic, I am convinced I did Wesleyan a service.”

Distilled into the preceding, I discern, for the umpteenth time, the sustained effulgence and the authentic imprimatur of the notorious FCW. In plain view is the beating heart of an upright self-sacrificing person, an indignant son of pious rural Baptists, a strategic reflector, a risk-taker, a man of assertive integrity, and a goody-goody political beast chained to empathy. Dare I dub him a knight for all seasons? Well...!

In that reporting of the dust-up at Wesleyan, there is an initial whiff of Mother Wickham's feisty idealism, and of a promising prospect for either succeeding the venerable pastor of the Brown's Town Circuit of Baptist Churches...with new fire, OR of becoming a transformative minister in this land, OR... I feel compelled to ask your committee to grant this liminal Tyro 1.2i, fiery baptism into a strenuous bout of fellowship with Oxford's best.

Three years of fermenting within such good trouble ought properly to balance him with enlightened realities to infuse his principled ideals. He should improve with time, steeping in the premier tempering school of “Perfidious Albion”. A hunch nags me that, at the back of Cecil's mind was a design to relentlessly wreak immersive, pandemic and good “bruk-out” trouble with his billions.

To me, FCW is thoroughly readied. That is why I most emphatically recommend The Notorious Fitzroy Wickham for the Jamaica Rhodes Scholarship.

Yours Sincerely,

Dennis A Minott, PhD, MISES, A-QuESTPS


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