Marks urges graduates to maximise their ROI | Lead Stories – Jamaica Gleaner

AMBASSADOR Dr Audrey Marks, who was conferred with the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws (LLD) at one of The University of the West Indies, Mona’s graduation ceremonies yesterday, urged graduands to learn from each of life’s obstacles and how to rise above them.
Marks, who was addressing the graduating class of 2023 from the faculties of Law and Social Sciences, discussed the importance of knowing not only how to thrive in life, but how to survive “in this new, ever-expanding world filled with its regional conflicts [and] artificial intelligence” while becoming the best versions of themselves.
She added that this would prove difficult if they were not “very centred” in who they are.
In reference to the graduands’ desire to maximise their return on their investment, “after investing so much energy, time, and money … blood, sweat and tears”, Marks said that they had to reimagine a different meaning to the acronym ROI.
Sharing her own experiences, Marks stated that the most important ‘R’ is one’s reputation.
She quoted the words of Warren Buffet, “it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin [and] if you think about that, you’ll do things differently,” adding that when she was a full-time student at UWI she worked full-time with the nation’s airline, Air Jamaica, while also operating a business on the side.
“At Air Jamaica, I had special privileges and used the opportunity to build what became a rather lucrative business of me purchasing items in the US and coming here to sell [and vice versa],” she said.
“Those days you couldn’t call a trader, a higgler, a formal commercial importer … [and] one day a relative suggested to me that I could make a huge amount of money and have a far more lucrative business if I decided to use my special travel privileges to transport drugs,” she explained.
She continued that as she was finishing her first degree, she decided that it was not worth it to take such a chance and that she would continue to work hard and obtain success the legal way.
Marks explained that some 20 years later when she was being considered for the position as ambassador to the US and was informed that extensive research on her background was mandatory, she was asked if there was anything that would possibly compromise her.
“In that moment the full impact of my decision to value my reputation more than any money came back to me and I smiled and said ‘no, go ahead and do your investigation, I have done nothing that I am ashamed of, nor that could embarrass me or stop my appointment’,” she recalled.
Marks continued that the letter ‘O’ stands for opportunity. She said that despite the reality that facing major setbacks, disappointments, and failures in one’s life was inevitable, “the good news is that you can, and should, work as best as you can to learn from challenges and rise above them”.
Marks, who is the founder of Paymaster (Jamaica) Limited, a multi-transaction company, which she conceptualised and started in 1997, said that she started the business “against all odds” and that just when business was booming, being integrated into approximately 65 locations across the island, in 2013, she was informed that the then government had taken the decision to terminate the Paymaster contract with the postal corporation.
“Overnight half of the company business was taken away and handed to a competitor,” she said.
But she used the exposure she had got to other ambassadors that represented 187 countries in the world, countries that represented markets and thought that “it was time to rise up, face our challenges, and make a pivot.
“Always remember that you can rise from any situation. When you get hit down, think about how you can turn that situation into an opportunity,” she said.
The final letter ‘I’ represents impact, she said. Marks implored the graduands to “lead a life of impact”, this meant to utilise their individual, “special, creative gifts” given by God to help influence and help shape the lives of others.
Marks is a woman of firsts.
She is Jamaica’s first female ambassador to the United States and permanent representative of Jamaica to the Organisation of American States (OAS), as 12 men held the position before her.
She is also the first ambassador to be appointed three times and in two different administrations and is the first female president of the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica where she gave focus on increasing investment and trade between the US and Jamaica.
She expressed delight for being honoured and being able to celebrate with the graduates, revealing that she had missed her own graduation ceremony.
“I had started a business and I had to travel that week and missed my flight and missed my ceremony, so, I’m so grateful for this second opportunity to participate in your commencement ceremony,” she said.
She continued that she was impressed by “this home-grown” university in its achievements and added that she was working towards developing relationships with various tertiary institutions across the United States, with the objective of establishing a year or term abroad student-exchange programme between those entities and the UWI.
Marks also encouraged former UWI principal, Professor Dale Webber; campus registrar, Dr Donovan Stanberry; UWI bursar, Catherine Parke-Thwaites; vice-chancellor, Sir Hilary Beckles; and principal Densil Williams to help in leading the charge to increase the number of international relationships developed for this cause.
“It is critical that every degree programme at UWI start to integrate an international component for our students. It is said that a mind once expanded can never regain its normal dimension and nothing expands the mind faster than leaning a different, more successful, economic environment,” she said.
The late Lascelles Chin, founder and executive chairman of the LASCO affiliated companies, philanthropist and business leader was also conferred of the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws (posthumously), which was received by James Rawles, managing director of LASCO Manufacturing Limited.
asha.wilks@gleanerjm.com
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