He was a great man!
Elated med student hails Aris after receiving scholarship
The first recipient of the Howard Aris Scholarship Jevaughn Johnson called the late athlete, coach and veteran sports administrator "a great man".
In a brief but poignant thank you message, Johnson, a dentistry student at the University of Technology (UTech), also paid glowing tribute to Jamaica's Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, whose foundation inaugurated the Howard Aris Scholarship and which answered his pleas for help.
"I stand as a legacy of this man, as you all saw what he brought to the JAAA (Jamaica Administrative Athletics Association) and the (resulting) success in Beijing and it's a pity that he was not here to see what happened in London. I have to live up to the reputation of Howard Aris, who was a great man.
"One day I hope to be that (like the Howard Aris Scholarship) — a helping hand to some needy Jamaican," said the beaming recipient at the scholarship launch at the Mayfair Hotel in Kingston on Thursday.
The Portia Simpson Miller Foundation, an education and social welfare organisation, will administer the Howard Aris Scholarship.
Johnson, a resident of the Prime Minister's South West St Andrew constituency, said when he wrote to the foundation for help to further his studies, he got a surprisingly quick response.
"For the PM to hear my plea, I am truly grateful. I remember writing to the foundation for help and within days I got a reply and they said they would assist. At the time I needed money for exams and I got it and I must say that I did great," said the young man to rousing applause.
The sum of the scholarship was not disclosed, but the Prime Minister suggested that it would be sufficient to cover the remainder of Johnson's course.
Aris, who died while campaigning with Simpson Miller during the general elections of November last year, was remembered by the Prime Minister as a "friend and brother".
"He was a gentleman who was precious to us, he worked hard for sport and gave so much of himself... he was so selfless and kind to almost a fault. He gave himself and worked with me until the end... only the love of God, my husband Errald and the people of Jamaica was stronger," said Simpson Miller at the function.
Aris's widow Sandra and children Quentin and Shannon Aris-Johnally attended Thursday's launch, and were obviously moved by the tributes being paid to the former Kingston College (KC) track and field star.
"It's a bitter-sweet moment... it's really overwhelming to sit here and recognise the kind of impact he has had over the years in sport first and foremost and of course politics.
"It's really a gratifying feeling to know that he's being remembered this way. It's good that he will continue to be impacting the lives of young people the way he has over the years, especially in the area of track and field," said son Quentin, a haulage contractor.
The younger Aris said the first day he went through the gate of KC as a student, expectations of him were high. To some, he may have disappointed.
"From I started attending KC I kept hearing that I must be able to do something on the track, but (instead) I did swimming and played table tennis, but on the track I didn't take it to the level that my father took it. But yes he inspired me in so many ways in becoming a good man, and how he has helped me and us as a family," said an emotional son.
Also receiving an educational scholarship from the Portia Simpson Miller Foundation was UTech student Rajesh Hutchinson, who is pursuing a diploma in the field of tourism.
Chairman of the "non-partisan" foundation, Zein Issa-Nakash, thanked the recipients and vowed that "people will see more of what we are doing" as their activities have been largely low-key.
Rayon Walters, a beneficiary of the foundation and who recently graduated from his law studies, was also in attendance at Thursday's presentation.
Executive director of the Caribbean Maritime Institute, Fritz Pinnock, offered the foundation a full four-year scholarship in any course of study for a suitably qualified student. The foundation has vowed to start the search for an individual to possibly take up the offer forthwith.
The foundation, which "was born out of the desire to help the less fortunate regardless of political persuasion, gender or religion", is said to have helped 300 people since its inception in 2010.