UNIVERSITY of the Commonwealth Caribbean (UCC) honorary doctorate designate, acclaimed chartered accountant Leighton McKnight, CD, experienced a range of emotions, among them surprise, delight and humility when he was advised of the decision of the board of the university to confer on him an honorary doctorate (honoris causa) at the annual graduation ceremony of the university on July 17, 2022.
He will receive the degree along with two other distinguished awardees — Godfrey Dyer, OJ, tourism and business titan and a distinguished governor of the Kiwanis Movement in Eastern Canada and the Caribbean; and Dr Sandra Reid, senior lecturer, psychiatry and deputy dean, clinical sciences, School of Medicine, Faculty of Medical Sciences, The University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine, Trinidad.
McKnight, who receives the honorary doctorate for his work in the accountancy and business sectors, will be the commencement speaker at the graduation, which celebrates several milestones for the UCC including 1,850 graduates, the largest cohort of its 30-year ascendency in higher education and the 10th year of the conferment of honorary doctoral awards.
Reacting to the news of his selection, McKnight said, “I am truly honoured and humbled by the UCC’s invitation for me to receive the honorary doctorate (honoris causa) in business administration. I must confess that this came as a big surprise to me as I certainly was not expecting it.”
He noted that, “The UCC has developed an excellent reputation in our region, facilitating the opportunity for tertiary education to several qualified individuals especially to those who because of financial constraints, cannot afford full time studies and have to work while studying.”
“This facilitation has assisted thousands of students to realise their dreams of a university education en route to fulfilling their true potential. This is most commendable and I have always admired the college for this especially with the practicality and relevance of the courses offered,” he said.
He added: “The honorary degree means a lot to me coming from this prestigious institution and I consider myself very fortunate especially when I look at the impressive list of past recipients. I am definitely in esteemed and illustrious company and again express my sincerest gratitude to the leadership of UCC for this magnificent recognition.”
Acknowledging his fellow awardees, he continued: “I also want to express heartiest congratulations to my fellow awardees, my good friend Godfrey Dyer and Dr Sandra Reid, both of whom are most worthy of their awards and I am so proud to be recognised at the same time as them.”
McKnight is the territory leader for PwC Jamaica and also PwC Caribbean’s leader for diversity, equity and inclusion in addition to leading the regional consumer and industrial, products and services industry sector. He is an assurance partner responsible for a number of key audit clients and is also the firm’s markets leader.
Co-chair of the independent commission for the judiciary, a former chairman of the Government of Jamaica audit commission and a former member of the parliamentary integrity commission, McKnight has amassed a treasure trove of awards. He was honoured by the Government in 2013 with the Order of Distinction, Commander Class for public service, philanthropy and community service and in 2017 he received the prestigious Institute of Chartered Accountants of Jamaica distinguished member award for sterling contribution to the accountancy profession and nation building.
An alumnus of The UWI, where he earned a bachelor’s in management studies (hons) and the Emile Woolf College of Accounting in London where he completed studies for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), McKnight guest lectures at The UWI and the Management Institute for National Development and has sat on the boards of several public and private sector entities. He holds the designation of distinguished lieutenant governor of excellence of the Kiwanis movement.
A member of the UWI Mentorship programme for over 25 years, McKnight and his wife, Dr Novelette Sadler McKnight, and their son Diego have opened their home to more than 30 children who are at various stages of their education ranging from primary to graduate school.
UCC honorary doctorates have been presented previously over the past decade to a number of distinguished professionals including Professor Errol Morrison, former president, the University of Technology, Jamaica; Bruce Bowen, former president and CEO, Scotia Bank Group; Dr Henry Lowe, executive chairman, Environmental Health Foundation; Richard Byles, former president and CEO, Sagicor Group; Gary Hendrickson, chairman and CEO Continental Bakery; Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, democratic member US House of Representatives; Dorothy Pine McLarty, chair, Electoral Commission of Jamaica; Marlene Street Forrest, managing director, Jamaica Stock Exchange; and posthumously to the late Gordon “Butch” Stewart, founder Sandals Resorts, the Jamaica Observer and ATL Ltd.