Protecting the identity of the 2011 Rotary Club of St. Thomas II Person of the Year took none of the usual subterfuge that presenter Elliot MacIver Davis usually goes through to keep everyone twisting in their seats until the last minute.
This year, the honoree was very much there already, seated at the head table. Nothing could have kept Rotary District 7020’s first female district governor away from this week’s district conference at Marriott’s Frenchman’s Reef.
Nonetheless, Diana White appeared to be taken by total surprise. Her characteristic poise was shattered, replaced by sudden tears. As she accepted the traditional Lladro statuette of Don Quixote, the club’s symbol of selflessness, of service over self, White voiced a simple, whispery "Thank you, thank you very much" — and that was that.
As White shook hands and voiced repeated thank yous, conference co-chair Marston Winkles serenaded White with a version of "What a Wonderful World," sounding more like Louis Armstrong than old Satchmo himself as he waltzed around the room, with a professional bow here and there. Supposedly, Davis said later, White had asked Winkles to sing that at her inauguration as district governor.
White declined a wordy statement about her singular career. "No comment," she said at first, then added: "I just love Rotary."
The special luncheon was hosted by the five St. Thomas Rotary Clubs as part of the conference which represented 80 clubs from 10 Caribbean countries.
The award, Davis said, "Seeks to recognize and celebrate the fundamental principals which inform the work we do in service to others. Our founders believed, as we do, that it is important to offer our young people living examples of significant benefits to be derived from a life of selfless dedication to family, community and humankind."
"One of life’s delicious ironies is that humility and selflessness seem so often to exist together in harmony," Davis said in his speech announcing the honoree.
Previous honorees include everyone from three previous governors, a senate president, congressman, university president and first lady (see list below).
Davis, in a studied understatement, (and at this point, fooling no one) noted "this year’s Person of the Year has had a rather busy one just passed." He said, "she has visited all 80 clubs in our district . . . offering praise and advice. Her easy smile and empathetic nature have brought encouragement and sustenance to virtually all of us."
Davis spoke of the contributions White and her husband, Roger, have made to St. Thomas since they immigrated here from England two decades ago. "White’s vocation is finance and business," he said, "but her avocation is altruism and philanthropy."
Together, Davis said, the Whites have contributed to the life and culture of their adopted home, "integrating their values into the lives they lead." He said Diana White withdrew from the business world while bringing up their now grown children, Louise and Julian.
Echoing the words of Quixote’s knight-errant, Davis said White has "dreamed the impossible dream" and given her all to reach her guiding star of service above self.
The presentation was preceded by Robert Nicolas, executive director of AME-SADA, the African Methodist Episcopal Church Service and Development Agency, an international humanitarian relief agency.
Nicolas spoke with knowledge and passion of the devastating conditions in Haiti, focusing on a woman’s hospital the agency hopes to partner with Rotary International to create.
Youngsters from Joseph Sibilly Elementary School Sun Rays Steel Pan Band showed their stuff to the other Caribbean countries, while Ivanna Eurora Kean High School senior Shantelle Eddy, Poetry Out Loud competitor recited Carl Sandburg’s "I am the People, the Mob," to a standing ovation.
- 2010 Therese Hodge
- 2009 Candida Petersen
- 2008 Steven van Bevrhoudt
- 2007 Cecile deJongh
- 2006 Joe Aubain
- 2005 Suzanne Robinson
- 2004 Rodney Miller
- 2003 LaVerne Ragster
- 2002 Elliot "Mac" Davis
- 2001 Shaun A. Pennington
- 2000 John P. deJongh Jr.
- 1999 Randy Knight
- 1998 Nick Pourzal
- 1997 Lorraine Berry
- 1996 Vinnie Mohanani
- 1995 Juel T.R. Molloy
- 1994 Edward E. Thomas Sr.
- 1993 Leona Bryant
- 1992 Verne A. Hodge
- 1991 Athniel "Addie" Ottley
- 1990 Dilsa Capdeville
- 1989 Ron de Lugo
- 1988 Irvin "Brownie" Brown
- 1987 Alexander A. Farrelly
- 1986 Dr. Alfred O. Heath
- 1985 Calvin Wheatley
- 1984 Costas Coulianos
- 1983 Dr. Roy L. Schneider
- 1982 Albert A. Aubain
- 1981 Wilbur "Bill" Lamotta