Giving, Gratitude and Partnership in Focus at AFUWI Benefit Gala

by April 25, 2024

For almost three decades, the American Foundation for The UWI (AFUWI) has dedicatedly garnered much-needed financial support for the best and brightest students of The University of the West Indies (The UWI). It has honoured the transformational contributions of outstanding individuals in the region and beyond. The legacy of giving, gratitude, and partnership continued at the 27th Annual Awards Gala on April 18 at Park Avenue, New York City.

Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, dubbed the Gala an opportunity to speak about “the value of gratitude, solidarity, the cause of the public good, and humanity at its finest.” Thanking the AFUWI and its donors, Vice-Chancellor Beckles also noted that The UWI maintains its status in the top 3% of the finest universities in the world, demonstrating its impact on donors. He said, “Our University is an elite university because of its proven record of excellence, but I should hasten to say that it is not an elitist university. It is a university dedicated to the public good, [one which] focuses on lifting the poor and the dispossessed…stands behind those historically disenfranchised… is committed to justice for all and equality for all. It is, in every sense, an ethical enterprise. When we come before you for support, we come to you with a performance record. Our gratitude is recognised.”

Dr D. Malcolm Brewster, scholarship recipient and HE Mohamed Irfaan Ali Ali at the 2024 AFUWI Awards Gala – The Legacy Continues.

Scholarship recipients Khrisann Russell, a final year accounting major at the Mona Campus who received the George Willie Scholarship, and Dr. D. Malcolm Brewster, a Dominican native and graduate of The UWI Mona who received the Parkwood Entertainment Scholarship, both shared the harsh realities of financial challenges. In Dr. Brewster’s case, it was brought on by the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017. He said, “This scholarship was the first sign that hope was on the horizon and that out of the womb of trial, trauma, and tribulation, maybe, just maybe, triumph might be born.” Both recipients were extremely grateful to benefactors and the AFUWI for restoring their dreams of a university education. They also thanked Jetblue Airways for sponsoring their air travel to New York to participate in the event.


Dr. Cyrus McCalla, chair of the AFUWI Board, expressed heartfelt gratitude to our dedicated sponsors and donors. He also called on the wider diaspora, emphasizing their crucial role in providing education opportunities. By remaining vigilant and concerned, they can help many students break the cycle of poverty, benefiting not just themselves and their families, but also the region and the world.

The 2024 distinguished honourees include His Excellency Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, receiving The Legacy Award, the gala’s highest honour. His Excellency, himself a UWI alumnus, responded with gratitude to The UWI for its role in shaping regional leaders. He also used the platform to highlight the urgent plight of Haiti, pledge Guyana’s prosperity to regional development, and commit to continued partnership with The UWI.

He said, “I believe that we must value more who we are, what we produce, what we own—we own The University of the West Indies. For this reason, as Guyana tries to build a world-class education and healthcare system, we have decided to incorporate a medical school with the first level five hospital we’ll build. And that medical school will be The University of the West Indies Medical School.” Referencing Guyana’s Gold scholarship programme with its over 345 programmes, from 19 universities, serving over 30,000 students, H.E. Dr. Ali also noted that in the last three years, 2,229 graduates have come from The UWI with 659 currently enrolled. He said this is a “testimony to partnership” and called on the region to find more innovative ways to incentivize study at The UWI.

Also awarded were Donald Christian of PriceWaterhouseCoopers – Caribbean Luminary Award; Michele Chow-Tai of Fairview Capital Partners – The Vice-Chancellor’s Achievement Award; Antony Mark Desnoes Hart, Chairman of Caribbean Producers, Jamaica – The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Business Leadership & Community Engagement; The Hart Group – the Corporate Award for Business Excellence; Reverend Patrick Perrin, retired Pastor of United Methodist Churches in Brooklyn and Queens – The Pelican Award; and Darren Skinner, Esq., Partner at Arnold & Porter – The Pinnacle Award. Perrin and Skinner are also graduates of The UWI.

His Excellency Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of Guyana, accepts the Legacy Award
Dr. D. Malcolm Brewster recipient of the Parkwood Entertainment Scholarship

In the spirit of gratitude, the gala paid tribute to the invaluable contributions of the late Marcia Erskine, who served committedly and passionately on the planning committee, and to the late Dr. The Hon. Harry Belafonte, who served as honorary gala patron. Both of them were associated with the event for over two decades.

The AFUWI Benefit Gala, our flagship fundraising event, has had a profound impact on the lives of UWI students. Over the past decade, more than 600 deserving students have been able to pursue their education at The UWI, thanks to the tuition scholarships funded by the Gala’s proceeds.