Ambassador Susan E. Rice and Toronto Raptors’ Masai Ujiri among six to be honoured at 9th annual UWI Toronto Benefit Gala

Ambassador Susan E. Rice, who served in US President Barack Obama’s administration, and Mr. Masai Ujiri, President of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA’s) Toronto Raptors are among six persons being honoured at the ninth Toronto Benefit Gala on Saturday at April 7, 2018. The Benefit Gala is being hosted by The University of the West Indies (The UWI) Institutional Advancement Division. Other honourees include Dr. Victor S. Blanchette, Dr. Avis Glaze, Dr. Michael S. Pollanen and the YMCA. This year the Gala will be hosted by CBC News Anchor, Dwight Drummond and under the patronage of the G. Raymond Chang Family (wife Donette Chin-Loy Chang, and children Andrew Chang and Brigette Chang Addorisio). It will be held at the Ritz-Carlton Toronto and Scotiabank continues its sponsorship of the event for the ninth consecutive year.

Since its inception, the annual event has raised funds to provide close to 400 scholarships to assist students across the Caribbean in reaching their higher education goals. Under the theme “Light, Learning and Liberty”, the Benefit Gala brings together Canada’s business and academic communities to celebrate the greatness and tireless work of the honourees, and raise well needed funds for outstanding students in the Caribbean, who otherwise, would not have the chance to pursue higher learning.

More about the Awardees
Ambassador Susan E. Rice will receive the Luminary Award, which is presented to persons of Caribbean heritage who have made their marks globally in their respective fields, or persons who have brought prominence to the Caribbean or to issues affecting the region. Ambassador Rice is well known for having served as National Security Advisor and U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations. She led the National Security Council Staff and chaired the Cabinet-level National Security Principals Committee. For four years, she also served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. In 2000, she was the recipient of the White House’s Samuel Nelson Drew Memorial Award for distinguished contributions to the formation of peaceful, cooperative relationships between states. Her other service includes Special Assistant to President William J. Clinton, Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council at the White House, Director for International Organisations and Peacekeeping on the National Security Staff. She was also a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, conducting research and publishing widely on U.S. foreign policy, transnational security threats, weak states, global poverty and development. The Washington native has served on numerous boards, including the Bureau of National Affairs, the National Democratic Institute and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In 2017, French President Francois Hollande presented Ambassador Rice with the Award of Commander, the Legion of Honour of France, for her contributions to Franco-American relations.

Mr. Masai Ujiri, Professional Basketball Executive and President of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors will receive the G. Raymond Chang Award. This award was established to honour outstanding individuals who exemplify the leadership ideals of G. Raymond Chang (1948-2014), a well-respected and outstanding Canadian and Caribbean business leader and philanthropist who embodied great humility and commitment. Mr. Chang passed away in July 2014, and was The Gala’s patron for five years.

Nigerian born, Mr. Ujiri, is a former basketball scout and player. After emigrating to the U.S., he played at Bismarck State College and Montana State University Billings and then professionally in Europe for six years. In 2002, he worked as a Youth Coach in Nigeria after ending his professional playing career. He then worked as an unpaid scout for the NBA’s Orlando Magic and was eventually hired as an international scout for the Denver Nuggets and then Director of Global Scouting for the Toronto Raptors. Mr. Ujiri became the Raptors’ Assistant General Manager in 2008, but returned to the Nuggets in 2010 as Executive Vice President in charge of Basketball Operations. In 2013, he was named NBA Executive of the Year, the only non-American ever to receive that honour. Later that year, he was appointed the President and General Manager of the Raptors. He is also affiliated with the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders Africa programme which promotes basketball throughout the continent. Ujiri’s work with Basketball Without Borders is profiled in Hubert Davis’ 2016 award winning documentary film Giants of Africa. He was recently conferred an Honorary Doctorate by Ryerson University in Toronto.

The YMCA will be presented with The UWI Chancellor’s Award. This award is presented to organisations which have contributed significantly to the Caribbean, or outstanding organisations owned by persons of Caribbean heritage. As one of Canada’s longest standing and largest charities since 1851, The YMCA is dedicated to the growth of all persons in spirit, mind and body, and to their sense of responsibility to each other and the global community. It provides vital community services that continue to positively impact some of Canada’s most pressing social issues and supports the Caribbean Diaspora in Toronto.

The Vice-Chancellor’s Award, traditionally presented to people of Caribbean heritage and others whose bodies of works have contributed to the betterment of the Caribbean region and those who have made significant contributions within their organisations and communities. For 2018, the three recipients of this award are as follows:

Dr. Victor S. Blanchette is a Medical Doctor of the Paediatric Thrombosis and Hemostasis Program in the Division of Haematology/Oncology at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Toronto. He is the McCaig Magee Family Medical Doctor of the SickKids Caribbean Cancer and Blood Disorders Initiative in the Centre for Global Child Health at the Hospital for Sick Children. His research interests are in the area of the congenital and acquired bleeding disorders of children. Dr. Blanchette is the Director of the Paediatric Comprehensive Care Hemophilia Programme at the Hospital for Sick Children, and Chair of the International Prophylaxis Study Group (IPSG). He is an Elected Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of the United Kingdom.

Dr. Avis Glaze is one of Canada’s outstanding educators, an author and a recognised international leader in education. This award-winning educator has experienced all levels of the school system as a classroom teacher, Superintendent of Schools and Director of Education. Dr. Glaze was one of five Commissioners on Ontario’s landmark Royal Commission on Learning, setting directions for the future of the education system. As the Province’s first Chief Student Achievement Officer and Founding CEO of the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, she played a vital role in working with educators to improve student learning, achievement and well-being. She taught at Faculties of Education at York University and the University of Toronto, and was appointed Professor in Residence at the Faculty of Education, University of Toronto. She is currently President of Edu-quest International Inc., offering a wide range of educational services and speaking engagements across the globe.

Dr. Michael S. Pollanen is Chief Forensic Pathologist for Ontario and a Professor and Vice-Chair (Innovation) of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at the University of Toronto. He has been involved in case work and forensic missions in East Timor, Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Haiti, Thailand, Jamaica, Iraq, and Bermuda. He is a member of the Forensic Advisory Board of the International Committee of the Red Cross and is the Immediate Past President of the International Association of Forensic Science. Dr Pollanen is a founder of Forensic Pathology in the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. He is also Deputy Chief Coroner in Ontario.