Mrs. Fay Saunders was a colossus in education. Much will be said and written about her brilliance as a teacher of Mathematics; her perspicacity as the Secretary of the Association of Assistant Masters and Assistant Mistresses; her effective management as the Principal of the St Andrews High School for Girls; her bold leadership as President and astuteness as Secretary General of the Jamaica Teachers Association; her vital inputs in the reform of the education system in the 1970s as Parliamentary Secretary; and her visionary contribution to the establishment of the Caribbean Examinations Council.
My debt to Fay Saunders is personal. It is related to her prodigious ability to see talents and possibilities in people that they did not know about. Her power of persuasion was incredible. She inveigled people to develop their potentials by jumping in at the deep-end of the pool of performance.
I never contemplated public speaking. But when, at age twenty-seven, Mrs. Saunders, the new principal, invited me to be the Guest Speaker at the Prize Giving of St Andrews High School I had to find it within myself not to fail both of us.
One Sunday afternoon in March 1974 Mrs. Saunders and a team of JTA leaders arrived at my home to inform me that they were coming from a meeting with the Prime Minister at Jamaica House and would be returning at 5.00. I was invited to join them. At that meeting, I learned that JTA had submitted three names to the Prime Minister for appointments in the Ministry of Education: Dr. Aubrey Phillips, Mrs. Saunders and myself. Dr. Phillips declined outright. He was being considered for Professorship at UWI. The Prime Minister then said to Fay and me, that one would be Parliamentary Secretary and the other Permanent Secretary. Even in a state of shock, I was clear minded to reject any political appointment. Whereupon, Fay declared that for the sake of the country she would she would be the Parliamentary Secretary. Before that moment being a civil servant or Permanent Secretary had never crossed my mind.
Sometime in January 1984, Fay came to me and said that the word on the street was that I would be asked to be one of the Independent Senators. If this happened I had to say yes. JTA needed someone in the Senate that the Association could trust but who was not a past-president of the Association. The word on the street proved accurate. When, for different reasons, Vice Chancellor Aston Preston shared the same view my fate was sealed. Being a Member of Parliament was never an ambition.
Sometime in early 1986 Mrs. Saunders came to me and said that I had to become President of the JTA in light of the crisis that existed. My reply was that I had no inclination for politics, even JTA politics. Her response was, leave it to me. The result was that I was elected president of the JTA, unopposed.
The truth is that if were not for Mrs. Fay E. Saunders I would not have undertaken any of the above. Mrs. Saunders saw in me potentials I never imagined. Fay was one of my mentors, the others two being the Honourable A. Wesley Powell and Professor Aubrey Phillips. Fay was an exemplar, a lifelong friend, and a trusted advisor. May her soul rest in peace.
Professor Emeritus Errol Miller