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Fatima Form 3A – Dennis Ramdeen, front row 2nd from left
Fatima Class of 75 Class Reunion
Fatima Class of 75 with Father Farfan
Fatima Class of 75 with Clive Pantin and first FOBA President, the late Derek Johnson
Q. In what years did you attend Fatima
A. 1968 to 1975
Q. Describe the culture of the College in your time.
A. The culture of the College from my experience was largely shaped by the Principal. My Principals were Father Ryan and Mr Clive Pantin. Father Ryan had a calm temperament, epitomised by the phrase he would use to get the boys at assembly to stop talking and or to pay attention. The phrase “Steady lads” are the words most associated with him. They speak to his style of choosing honey over vinegar although he was no push-over. At the time, Fatima had about six priests and two Brothers on staff. There was a lot of religious activity, including the Legion of Mary and the saying of the Angelus at lunchtime. Wherever you were when the bell sounded for the Angelus, you stopped in your tracks as if the National Anthem were playing. I would summarise this culture as one guided by a gentle giant called Father James Ryan. Discipline served up with velvet gloves.
My second Principal was Clive Pantin, who became Principal in 1972. Mr Pantin was the first layman to hold the post of Principal at a Catholic school run by a religious order (in Fatima’s case the Holy Ghost Fathers). Clive helped to relax Fatima a bit. Yes, we still had all the rules but now we had a Principal who was funny and far more approachable. His addresses at Assembly were legendary, and they provided my first training in corny jokes and the art of the pun. (Glen Roach also contributed in this area)
I remember my class being asked in Lower Six if we could be anybody in the world, who would we choose to be. I chose Clive Pantin. He was a simple, accessible, humble and hard-working leader, so I did not have to go far for my choice. What school at that time had a Principal that played football with his students? We did.
Clive Pantin made you want to do good. His best trait for me was his care and concern for the underdog. For example, he reached out to our less endowed neighbours at Mucurapo Secondary to share our facilities with them. Our Class of ’75 put together a video on Mr Pantin entitled “Answering the Call” that can be seen on You Tube. This production with direction and videography by Clifford Seedansingh, gives some insight into why we loved him so much.
Q. How long were you on the FOBA committee before you ran for President? Did you hold any positions/Offices prior to being President?
A. I joined FOBA sometime around 1978 when I returned from studying in Canada. It was then led by the Founder of FOBA, Derek Johnson. FOBA really struggled in those days to get Past Students to come back to serve. The main project at the time was an Annual Bingo held on the school compound, open air in the current car park area. (This area used to be a tennis court, in Fatima’s early years). There was also an annual BBQ, and the “Old Boys” ran the bar at the annual Mayfair. In those days we served alcohol. Derek Johnson, Ricki Inniss, Dennis McSween, Dr George Khan, Hollis Roberts, Reynold Makhan were some of the stalwarts of FOBA in the 70’s and 80’s.
Q. What made you decide to run for FOBA President?
A. When I became President in the early eighties, I think I won by default. At the time you became President by acclamation and since I was the youngest in the bunch, I was told that it was time for me to be President. The whole Executive was selected on that basis.
Q. What years (and for how long) were you FOBA President?
A. Not sure. It seemed like 3-5 years.
Q. What was your vision for FOBA while you were at the helm?
A. No grand vision really. We saw ourselves as a fundraising arm of the College and we organised legacy fundraising projects.
Q. What was the most challenging aspect of being President of FOBA during your tenure?
A. Attracting past students to join us in our volunteerism.
Q. What were you most proud of during your tenure as President?
A. Our role in helping to fund the Pavilion on the College’s playing field. The Pavilion was designed by Father Gerard Farfan. (Please know though, we were not the sole source of funds for this.)
Q. Is there anything you would have liked to have done during your Presidency and that you didn’t get a chance to do?
A. Figure out a way to attract more members, not just to serve on the Executive but also to volunteer to help at our events. It was always the same four or five persons doing the work.
Q. How has the experience of being FOBA President influenced you?
A. It helped me to learn how to run meetings and organise events. Chairing a meeting requires several skills, including listening, keeping things on track and not allowing one person to hog the proceedings. It also calls for showing genuine respect for all. I had the good fortune to have been in meetings run by Derek Johnson and Dennis McSween. It doesn’t get much better than that.
FOBA was my first real taste of event planning. When you’re organising an event with little resources you get to learn by doing…and our resources were few.
Q. If all your teachers were still there, who would you check first on visiting Fatima today?
A. Mervyn Achille (French teacher––calm, friendly, patient and bright.)
Q. Tell us about your career/family post-Fatima. Any highlights you wish to share?
A. I’m married for 39 years to a girl I had my eyes on since Fatima. Rebecca and I have six children––three boys, who all attended Fatima College and three girls (who I wish could have)––and one grandson. I have spent all my working life in Marketing, mostly on the client side and I now run an Ad agency which I started 14 years ago.
Q. Have you been able to maintain friendships with your classmates since school? Any class reunions?
A. My Form 6 class graduated in 1975 and we meet once a month (we call it our Bored Meeting). We are the one group of all graduating years in Fatima that have stayed together the closest. (That is an undisputable fact!) We also have two annual fundraisers: a Bingo and the ‘Clive Pantin Golf Classic’, which we organise every year to raise money for charity and our College.
Q. What do you feel about Fatima and FOBA today, and how they’ve progressed?
A. FOBA today has achieved what we could not achieve in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s––that is, getting past students involved in their College. Apart from fundraising, the current FOBA also organises events for its membership, such as All Fours and Small Goal tournaments. These events bring past students together and build fellowship around a common bond and love for our school. They have also established the Grey Pocket Gift Shop, and a dynamic Digital connection with Fatima Old Boys, sharing news on FOBA and the College. This helps old boys stay connected and engaged. I think FOBA has served as an example and inspiration to other schools’ Alumni groups as to what’s possible when people undertake serving the school that gave them so much.
Q. If you were elected President of FOBA tomorrow, what would be your 1st order of business?
A. FOBA today is doing a great job. I would build on their great work and develop a more sophisticated and diversified fundraising system: FOBA is great at Event Fundraising. But they may wish to consider the need to diversify. Also, we need to tap into ways of getting direct contributions from past students. This may mean hiring a professional fundraising agency who knows the ropes. For example, how do we keep track of alumni? How do we keep relationships strong? It is my understanding that there are tools to help us track down and keep in touch with alumni––identify where they are, what they’re doing, and how to approach them to support our College. We can perhaps up our fundraising game by going direct.
Q. Any personal hobbies? How do you spend your free time?
A. I am a big fan of Steelband and Steelband music, and a permanent student of marketing
Q. Any closing remarks?
A. I sure am glad my mother Aileen Ramdeen transferred me from St Mary’s College to Fatima College. I went to St Mary’s for one year and then came to my senses, entering Fatima in Form 2, where I sat next to a wonderful person named Roger Romero!