When Math professor St. Laurent ‘Larry’ Daisley turned 70 last year and retired from Seneca College after 37 years, his daughter thought the occasion was worth celebrating.
It was also five decades since he left St. Vincent & the Grenadines to pursue higher education in Canada.
“Dad has done so much in the field of education to help uplift young people and also for me and my family,” said Natasha Daisley, the older of two siblings, who works with the City of Toronto Children’s Services. “He has always been my biggest motivator. I remember bedtime as the best period of my day when I was about four or five. I would have my bath and he would tuck me in and read a story. That was my daily routine. That is what fostered my love of reading and writing. He has led by example and has been such an inspiration.”
Encouraged by an older brother to leave his teaching job in the Caribbean and complete higher education in Canada, Daisley acquiesced and arrived in Montreal in October 1972.
Finishing the two-year CEGEP program in Quebec, required to enter college or university, in just over a year, he spent 16 months at McGill University doing Biochemistry.
“I was the only Black studying that subject at the time, so I decided to go over to Concordia to complete my studies after learning there were many people of colour in the program,” Daisley, the fifth of eight siblings, said.
His interest in science came from older brother Lennox Daisley who teaches part-time at Seneca College.
“He did an undergraduate degree in Agriculture at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus (Barbados) and a graduate degree in Agronomy at an American university,” said Daisley. “His studies were mainly focussed on the sciences. I also had a cousin who was a medical doctor. In the Caribbean at the time, you were encouraged to pursue either medicine or law. I hated the Arts.”
With an eye on studying medicine, he was twice accepted into UWI Medical School in Jamaica.
“After a failed second attempt, I learnt that St. Vincent was not contributing to UWI’s medical program at the time and that was the reason I was denied the opportunity,” the septuagenarian said.
Daisley attained the top mark in Queen’s University graduate Biochemistry program and authored several articles before coming to Toronto in 1980 and applying to the University of Toronto, SickKids Hospital and Seneca College.
After splitting a year as a Biochemist at SickKids and U of T and three years up to the 1985 as a Research Scientist with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, he started teaching.
“I was always applying to Seneca because teaching is what I wanted to do,” said Daisley. “My father was a head teacher (mom also taught) and I taught before coming to Canada. Tim Daisy (one of St. Vincent’s foremost poets and playwrights) and I taught at Bishop’s College School on the island and he once told me that whenever I walk into a class, I should teach in such a way that the most backward of students would stand up and say, ‘Who you think you are talking to, I am not a dummy’. I said I would be that type of teacher and I never walked into a classroom with a textbook. I practiced teaching in front of a mirror.”
As the only Biochemist then in Seneca College’s Department of Biochemistry, (the other faculty members were chemists and biologists), he co-founded the Seneca Association of Black Educators (SABE) in the late 1980s.
“There were about eight to 10 Black full-time professors at the time,” said Daisley who held several positions at Seneca, including Director of Academic Projects and Special Assistant to President Stephen Quinlan. “When I tried to pull the guys together, many of them were sceptical because they felt there would be repercussions that would jeopardise their careers.”
The formation of SABE stands out among his career highlights at Seneca.
“The organization became so powerful to the point where we approached every Black faculty member to join,” he said. “I remember speaking to a guy from Egypt who said he did not consider himself to be Black and he would not be part of the group. He was later fired and when he approached the union, they told him the only ones that could help him was SABE. We had access to the President and the Board of Governors.”
Daisley contributed to several publications, including Mathematics of Business & Finance first edition (there are four) that holds a special place in his daughter’s heart.
“My dad was adamant that a Black student was on the cover,” noted the York University and McMaster University Master of Arts graduate. “Usually, there was some sort of scenery, but he wanted it to be relatable and he got his wish.”
In retirement, Daisley and his wife – Marcia Daisley is a retired bankruptcy administrator – plan to travel.
“The only time we have gone abroad is for a funeral, marriage or a visit back to St. Vincent,” he said. “Just before COVID, we went to Niagara Falls for three days. Still relatively healthy, we think it is time to go out and see the world.”
Source : ronfair.com