T he University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) on Saturday, February 16, 2013 conferred the Honorary Doctor of Technology, Sport Honoris Causa – (Hon DTech) on Jamaica’s “Sprint Queen”, Olympian Merlene Ottey at a special ceremony held at Vere Technical High School in Clarendon. The conferment ceremony formed part of the staging of the Ben Francis Invitational meet which was hosted by Dr. Ottey’s alma mater in her honour. The conferment marked the first time that UTech was presenting the institution’s highest academic honour at a school setting. Dr. Ottey is the second person to receive the Honorary Doctor of Technology. Dr. Dennis Johnson received the honour in 2008.
Prof. the Hon. Errol Morrison, OJ, President, UTech in his welcome, pointed out that Ms. Ottey had previously accepted UTech’s offer to receive the honorary degree at the University’s graduation ceremony held last November 2012, but was unable to travel to Jamaica at that time. He thanked Ms. Ottey for accommodating UTech on her visit to the island and for accepting the honour from the University. He lauded Dr. Ottey’s achievements as “the most decorated Jamaican athlete of all time.” Prof. Morrison used the opportunity to call for more research to find answers to the question the world wants to know – “why do Jamaicans run so fast? He noted that the phenomenon of Jamaica’s success in track and field is worthy of further detailed study and investigation, noting that UTech through its Faculty of Science and Sport continues to do research in this area.
The citation to Dr. Ottey, read by the University’s Public Orator, Mrs. Pamella Kelly, paid tribute to her athletic prowess and her widely respected contribution to the worldwide acclaim of Jamaica as a leader in Track & Field.
Over her long and distinguished career, Merlene Ottey competed in six Olympic Games for Jamaica. She has won more Olympic medals in track and field history than any other woman. She became the first female English-speaking Caribbean athlete to win an Olympic medal when she won bronze in the 200 m in 1980 and became the oldest woman to ever win an Olympic medal with her final one at the 2000 Sydney games as part of the 4x100 m Jamaica team which won the silver medal.
In her response, Dr. Ottey thanked her mother and God for giving her “the gift to run.” She recalled that growing up in Hanover was difficult where she ran to and from school which was five miles away. To the amusement of the audience, she noted that she originally wanted a career in fashion but decided to use her legs instead to pursue her true passion with a career in track. Today, still on the track at age 52, Dr. Ottey thanked UTech for recognising that “my achievement is worthy of such an honour.”
In attendance at the event were members of the sports fraternity including Mr. Mike Fennel, President, Jamaica Olympic Association (JoA), Dr. Warren Blake, member of UTech’s Council, President, Jamaica Athletic Association (JAAA), Dr. Cynthia Thompson, who is the first Jamaican female athlete to qualify for the Olympic Games in the 100M final (1948 London Summer Olympics) and the first Jamaican to break an Olympic record. Also present was Track and Field Coach, Bert Cameron, members of Dr. Ottey’s family and a host of other well wishers.Mr. Fennel in his remarks which preceded the conferral ceremony, challenged the gathering to use sport to develop “our total selves...founded on the values of fair play, sportsmanship and respect for all,” adding that Ms. Ottey epitomises all these values.