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Meet the Barnaby Family Including UMES President, Dr. Thelma B. Thompson (6866 hits)

Published: Sunday | June 8, 2008
Dr. Jennifer Keane-Dawes, Contributor

The Barnaby Family

Dr Thelma B. Thompson (seated at right), president of the University of Eastern Shore, is seen here with her family. Seated beside her is mother Elaine Barnaby. Others (seated from left) are Nellie Robinson, vice-president, Patient Services, and chief nursing officer, Children's National Medical Center, Washington DC; Sybil Black, nurse manager, National Institute of Health, Bethesda, Maryland; and Paulette Campbell, director human resources, District of Columbia Housing Authority. In the back row (from left) are Gordon Barnaby, vice-president of Telesis of Rockville, MD; Roy Anthony, retired from the Washington Gaslight Company, and now with DC Public Schools; and Karl Barnaby, manager, Environmental Division, Virginia Beach General Hospital. - Contributed

Claude Barnaby (Mass Claude), from Balaclava in St Elizabeth, didn't live long enough to see the resounding success of his children. But, at 90, their mother, Elaine Barnaby (Miss B), has. In fact, recuperating from a stroke in a Maryland hospital recently, the doctors cautioned her family that she needed rest because she was hallucinating, making strange comments about her children.

"Comments like what?" asked one of her sons, clearly worried.

"Well," the doctor replied, "like she has a daughter who is vice-president at the Children's Hospital in DC, one is a nurse manager, another one is director of human resources at the Housing Authority in DC, that one son is vice-president of Telesis of Rockville in Maryland, that another works with the school system in DC, another is manager of the environmental division at the Virginia Beach General Hospital; that one son is dead but had managed a foreign auto body shop. And she even said she has a daughter who is a university president."

But, he encouraged, given her age, hallucination is not uncommon.

The son replied, "She is not hallucinating. She's right."

Of course, Miss B, a retiree from the United States Catholic Conference, was absolutely right. When her daughter Thelma was appointed president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore five years ago, Miss B couldn't have been happier.

"I'm so proud of all my children, and even look at what is happening to Thelma now," she told Outlook. "We have come a long way from Balaclava. I just wish Dada was here to see them, to see how his hard work paid off. That man loved his children. But, God knows best."

And although the family has done well, both individually and collectively, what's happening to Thelma Barnaby Thompson now is extremely special. She's adding even more glory to the Barnaby clan and to her homeland, Jamaica, that she honours as the place that gave her values, ideals and work ethics. Elected president of the Group of Presidents, managing the 13 universities in Maryland, and three times White House Presidential Advisor for the Reading First Teacher Education Network, Thompson has led the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) to its current ranking as one of the top black colleges in the United States, establishing schools of pharmacy, engineering, and health professions on the campus, officially recognised as the most beautiful in the United States.

"The University System of Maryland Board of Regents should take time to honour UMES President Thelma Thompson, [she] deserves credit," editorialised the Daily Times of Salisbury, MD, on October 19, last year. "The Jamaica native has dug deep into her job and produced many positive results for UMES," the paper continued. Under her leadership, UMES has increased student enrolment, enhanced technology and faculty productivity, and set a record in private fund-raising, attracting $5 million since 2004.

At the same time, endowment funds have grown from $7 to $17 million and grant funds from $9.8 to $18.2 million in 2007. In addition to creating UMES's first Professional Golf Management Academy, Thompson steered the university's re-accreditation process to five commendations and no deficiencies reported by the Middle States Commission on Accreditation. "Contrast this," the Daily Times wrote on July 8, 2006, "with UMES's previous accreditation in 1996 [under other leadership] when it received more than a dozen recommendations for improvement."

Recognised as a distinguished alumna of Howard University and as one of Maryland's top 100 women, Thompson, president of the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), has expanded the global reach of UMES to Ghana, where she has established partnerships with various organisations and acquired property for the university. As a result of her work, she has been named Queen Mother, Nana Ama Abokamah 1, Patron of Ghana Queen Mothers Association.

Thompson, who received the award for Most Promising Graduate from Bethlehem Teachers' College in Jamaica, received her graduate degrees in literature from Howard University and a certificate in continuing education from Harvard. She has one daughter, Dr. Lisa Thompson, a dentist.

The Barnaby brothers and sisters live in proximity to their mother and each other in the Maryland/DC area. They are a source of strong support to many families in Jamaica, and give credit to the old Jamaican values of the love of God, closeness to family and friends, and the practice of the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
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Sunday, June 8th 2008 at 2:23PM
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