Wed | Oct 21, 2020

Peter Espeut | Msgr Gladstone Wilson – honouring a high-achieving J’can

Published:Friday | September 18, 2020 | 12:11 AM
Mgr Gladstone Wilson.
Mgr Gladstone Wilson.
In this April 2 1951 photo, The Rt Rev Fr Gladstone Wilson (centre with back to camera), newly created Monsignor of the Roman Catholic Church, is seen facing His Grace the Archbishop of Nanking, the Most Rev Paul Yu-Pin, at the investiture ceremony.
In this April 2 1951 photo, The Rt Rev Fr Gladstone Wilson (centre with back to camera), newly created Monsignor of the Roman Catholic Church, is seen facing His Grace the Archbishop of Nanking, the Most Rev Paul Yu-Pin, at the investiture ceremony.
1
2

I have never liked the idea of co-educational high schools, because they disadvantage boys. Psychologists tell us that on average, girls mature earlier and are more conceptually developed than boys during ages 11-16; thereafter, the boys catch up. If boys and girls are put together in grades 7-9, the girls will far outperform the boys, and run circles around them academically. The boys may become discouraged and withdraw, and develop inferiority complexes and other emotional problems.

One of the ways Jamaican plantation society disadvantaged black males was to deny them high-schooling. In the sugar parish of Trelawny, there was no high school for boys before Independence; boys were expected to make themselves busy cutting cane rather than going to school.

Whereas the sugar parish of St James had one boys’ high school before Independence (Cornwall College), there were two high schools for girls (Mt Alvernia and Montego Bay High). Cornwall College had to find space for Trelawny boys also.

With support from Campion College and Mt Alvernia High (both consistently ranked in the top 10 Jamaican high schools), the Catholic Church and the education ministry, with support from Member of Parliament Horace Chang, are establishing a high school in Montego Bay to provide additional quality high-school spaces for boys in our Second City.

The Gladstone Wilson High School opens next month at the Catholic Cathedral in Montego Bay. But who is Gladstone Wilson, some ask? And why name a boys’ high school after him? Let me tell you:

THE LIFE OF GLADSTONE WILSON

Born in 1906 in Mavis Bank, St Andrew, it was recognised early that young Gladstone was extraordinarily bright. His parents wanted him at Jamaica College, but he was refused entry; instead, he attended St George’s College. He debated with his fellow students and the Jesuit faculty, and in fifth form he was baptised by his headmaster and became a Roman Catholic; he converted his two sisters to the Catholic faith.

He was awarded First Class Honours in the Cambridge Preliminary Examinations, and in 1922 graduated top of his class.

He went to work in the civil service, but later decided that he wanted to become a Roman Catholic priest. The bishop arranged a scholarship for him to study at the Urban College in Rome, and he began in 1925. He completed his BA (Hons) in two years, receiving the prizes for Natural History, Latin and Greek. He was awarded the Chancellor’s Philosophical Scholarship, and proceeded to read for his PhD.

In 1929 at age 23, he obtained his first PhD – ‘Summa cum laude’ – coming first in his college; his thesis, written in Latin, was titled, ‘The Living Wage’. In 1930 he completed the degree of Bachelor of Divinity with Honours, being Gold Medallist and Prizeman in Psychology, Moral Philosophy, and the History of Philosophy.

On Christmas Eve 1931 he was ordained to the priesthood at age 25; his early ordination (one year before his course of studies was complete) was by special permission of His Holiness Pope Pius XI.

In 1932 at age 26, he was awarded the Doctorate of Divinity (DD) ‘Magna cum laude’ from the Faculty of Philosophy, winning the Chancellor’s Gold Medal for General Excellence; his thesis, again written in Latin, was ‘The Marriage Bond’.

Now with two doctorates, he was appointed tutor at his alma mater, the only West Indian and the first black person to occupy this post. In 1933 he was appointed a lecturer at the Pontifical Vatican University.

To cut a long story short, in 1934 he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Canon Law (BCL); in 1936 at age 30, he received his third doctorate – in Canon Law (DCL) ‘Summa cum laude’. After returning briefly to Jamaica, he went to Fordham University, New York, graduating in 1940 with an MA in Sociology and a Diploma in Social Work.

Rural Jamaican man, the Rt Rev Msgr Gladstone Orlando Stanislaus Wilson (1906-1974) CBE, PhD, DD, DCL MA BA(Hons) BD BCL FRSA DipSocSci has been ranked as the Seventh Most Learned Man in the World. He is a worthy role model for Jamaican young men.

The Rev Peter Espeut is a sociologist and Dean of Studies at St Michael’s Theological College. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com