Dr. Roderick Karl James,
Commander of the Order of Distinction, Chancellor of the Mico University College is the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. William Stephenson James. Dr. James was born and grew up in Sturge Town, St Ann. He received his primary education at the Sturge Town Elementary School and his secondary education at the Henderson High School in Brown’s Town. Henderson High was one of the successors of the first York Castle High School and the immediate predecessor of the current York Castle High School.
Having passed all of his school examinations with flying colours, Roderick affectionately called Roddy by family and friends, chose pharmacy and was trained as a Pharmacist in the Government Service. An early sign of his leadership ability, and resolve, was that during training he led the move to form the Pharmaceutical Students Association, under threat of being reported to the Ministry of Health.
Roderick Karl James, the student rebel, has maintained a life-long commitment to the pharmacy in Jamaica. He became Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica and broadened the base of the Society by actively recruiting many young pharmacists to become members. Respect for and recognition of his commitment and service to pharmacy resulted in him being appointed to the Pharmacy Council of Jamaica and elevated to being its Chairman for four years.
The practicing pharmacist morphed into being a Medical Representative of multinational pharmaceutical companies: first Boots, then Pfizer and then Abbot. As a result of his initiatives Strepsil, to soothe the throat, and the antibiotic, Vibramysin one-a-day, were introduced into the Jamaican market.
As he climbed the corporate ladder Roddy of Sturge Town became R. Karl James the Jamaican businessman. The Medical Representative was recruited and appointed Managing Director of Mead Johnson, Jamaica Ltd. At Mead Johnson R. Karl James led the company from being an importer of products such as Nutriment into manufacturing and exporting products, for example, Clorodo Bleach; Bufferin; Comtrex; Sustagen; Enfamil and Olac for infants. Given his leadership in transforming Mead Johnson Jamaica, Karl James was elected Chairman of the Jamaican Exporters Association at the time when Jamaica made significant strides in manufacturing.
In March 1986 the Sugar Manufacturers Corporation of Jamaica and the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers came together in partnership and incorporated a private company, Jamaica Cane Product Sales, which was then authorized by the Sugar Industry Authority to be the agency charged with exporting brown sugar and molasses and importing refine sugar. This new entity looked for a proven and innovative corporate executive to bring the vision into reality. The partnership chose R. Karl James as its first Managing Director. In his 30-year tenure as Manager Director Karl James became the voice of sugar in Jamaica; one of the most trusted leaders in the industry; the most skilled negotiator for sugar in the Caribbean; the driving force of innovation in diversifying the sugar industry and the most well-known lobbyist for Jamaican and Caribbean sugar in the corridors of power and of the corporate world in London, Brussels, Paris and Washington. In deference to his remarkable leadership and accomplishments, his colleagues across the region elected him Chairman of the Sugar Association of the Caribbean. To speak of the ethanol blend in gasoline or of brand Jamaica Gold on the shelves of supermarkets or of packaged sugar in supermarkets is to recite accomplishments of R. Karl James.
Very early in his adult life, Karl James joined the Lions Club of Kingston. Very early in his membership in the Club, he focused on the work of Sight Conservation, one of the principal areas of service of Lion Clubs. He became the Chairman of that Committee for many years and led the Kingston Club’s efforts in screening for vision impairment, prevention of blindness, treatment for deficiencies related to sight, and supporting the work of the Jamaica Society of the Blind. In addition to being a past-president of the Lions Club of Kingston, in recognition of his exemplary contributions, Lion Karl was elevated to being a Melvin Jones Fellow, the highest award given by Lions Club International.
Tennis is the sport of Roderick Karl James for exercise, recreation, and enjoyment. He is a tennis fan extraordinaire. But more importantly, he has played tennis consistently every week for almost all of his adult life. Now in his senior years, he only plays every morning from Monday to Saturday for about one hour. After many years of finding courts on which to play, he became a guest of a friend who was a member of the Liguanea Club. This guest played tennis more consistently than most members of the Club. Accordingly, he was accepted as a member of the Club, then elected as a member of its Board and for several years now he has been Chairman of the Liguanea Club.
Dr. Karl James’s commitment to his Lord has been ecumenical. On relocating from Port Antonio to Kingston in the late 1950s he became an avid attendee of Kingston Youth for Christ at its meetings on Saturday nights at Coke Methodist Church Hall in Parade. In time he became a member of the Board of Kingston Youth for Christ, then the Director of Kingston Youth for Christ and subsequently a member of the Board of Youth for Christ International.
Brought up in the Sturge Town Baptist Church and baptized at the Port Antonio Baptist Church Karl James has been a member of the Bethel Baptist Church, Half-Way-Tree for 61 years so far. He has been a deacon and lay-preacher for over 50 years and was Secretary of the Church for about 30 years. But Karl James did not confine his efforts to the Bethel Church. He has served the Baptist Denomination in numerous capacities. This includes being a member and chairman of the Kingston and St Andrew Baptist Association, member of the Executive Jamaica Baptist Union and one of the few laymen to be elected Vice President of the Jamaica Baptist Union; Chairman of the Calabar Trust, member of the Board of the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship and member of Finance and General Purpose Committee of the Baptist World Alliance.
It is not surprising therefore that in 1972 the Jamaica Baptist Union named Karl James to be its representative on the Board of Directors of the Mico Teachers College. In 1988 he was appointed Chairman of Mico College Board of Directors. As Chairman of the Board Karl James became a champion of the newly established Mico Child Assessment and Research in Education Centre. The CARE Centre was established in 1980 as a result of Development Corporation between the Governments of Jamaica and the Netherlands. Its primary purposes were
- a) To provide world-class diagnostic and therapeutic services to children with multiple disabilities;
- b) To allow children in need of such services to remain in Jamaica with their families;
- c) To provide clinical experience for trainee teachers of children with special needs.
Given his work with sight conversation in the Lions Club, Dr. James intuitively understood The CARE Centre’s importance and imperative for success. Accordingly, Mrs. Angelita Arnold the Administrator of the Centre and Dr. James the Chairman of the Mico College Board became the formidable duo advancing the work of the Centre. Having succeeded in consolidating the Centre operationally, they identified the need to establish branches of the Centre outside of Kingston so that its services could be even more readily accessible. Given the topography of Jamaica, this meant establishing branches that served Eastern, North Central, South Central and Western parishes.
The Anglican Parish Church in St Ann’s Bay, as well as friends of special needs children, became willing partners with Mico College in inaugurating and operating the North Central Branch here in St Ann’s Bay. The CARE Centre and the Mico Foundation have been faithful stewards in delivering affordable services and of re-investing any surplus earned into the advancement of its mission. As a result of careful management and patience, the property at Royes Street was acquired and the building constructed to house the North Central Branch of the Mico CARE Centre. The St Ann’s Bay CARE Centre on Royes’ Street was opened in 2008 and is now on par with facilities, staff, and service of its parent in Kingston. At every step, R. Karl James played critical roles with respect to the securing of funds, acquisition of the land, construction of the building and the commencement of operation of the Centre here in St Ann’s Bay.
In 2008 the Lady Mico Trust selected and the Government of Jamaica appointed Dr. R. Karl James and the first Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Board of the Mico University College. In 2015 by the same process, Dr. James was elected to being Chancellor of the Mico University College.
The trajectory of the life of Roderick Karl James has been consistently the same whether it is in his profession, community service, employment, business, recreation, the church or ecumenical engagements. R. Karl James starts out initially at the ordinary and common level, serves with unfailing presence, uncommon excellence and extraordinary commitment. Over time Karl James is elevated by his peers to the highest rungs of the ladder locally, regionally and internationally.
Amidst all of the above R Karl James, Roddy, has been an exemplary husband and father of four children, the de facto head of the James Clan as well as being the hub of a wide circle of friends. God has blessed R. Karl James with good health and long life. Even then, his wide and diverse involvements and rise to leadership in all spheres are breathtaking and remarkable even in recounting them. Truly Dr. Roderick Karl James, son of the soil of St Ann, is a giant of the land and a legend of his time.
Historically St Ann has produced several giants of our country, chief among them has been National Hero Marcus Mosiah Garvey. In our time, St Ann has given us Roderick Karl James.
The Lady Mico Trust, the Mico Foundation, and the Mico University College are united in naming the Building housing the Mico University College CARE Centre in this historic town of St Ann’s Bay, the Dr. Roderick Karl James Building.
July 5, 2018