Dr Vincent Adams is a ‘special person’
“I really don’t care what other people believe about me, it is what I believe that’s important. I vividly remember there were times as a youth playing table tennis and cricket at the Mackenzie Sports Club, that I was taunted and booed, because I was from Wismar, and all the other players were from Mackenzie, but I never gave up, as a matter of fact, it made me more determined than ever to succeed. Any kind of negativism lights a fire in my belly!”
That is the philosophy of Dr. Vincent Adams, a highly respected engineer, who holds one of the top posts in the US Department of Energy, and who was once just an obscure little boy from the Christianburg community in Linden – Gardenia Street to be exact – where he grew up with his parents and four siblings in a one-bedroom house, through which no less than twenty-three persons would ‘pass’ during the course of his childhood.
As you may by now conjecture, Adams was born with no silver spoon, but his success story defies all the odds and challenges peculiar to those who grow up in the so-called ghettos. His climb up the ladder of success to attain a senior executive position in the United States government, certainly underscores the saying, that it is not where you come from, but where you end up.
And most significant is the fact that the foundation for the phenomenal successes achieved by this man was laid right here, where he began his working life as a teacher at the Wismar Hill Primary School, and where he met his beautiful wife, who was also a teacher there.
Adams is the proud father of three sons and presently lives with his family in the United States; but to him home is definitely where the heart is, and for this ‘hardcore’ Lindener, this mining town will always be home.
He is presently the chairman of the Linden Fund USA, a US-based charity organisation, which has a local Chapter in Linden. He has held this position for several years now.
The organisation is well known and loved in Linden, and thanks to its commitment in the area of health, hundreds of residents in and around the community access free medical services every year, from overseas medical practitioners, who travel to the mining town, under the stewardship of the fund. In the area of education, several children receive backpacks with school supplies on a yearly basis as well, and students who do not possess the wherewithal but qualify to attend the University of Guyana, are sponsored to do so by the fund.
As a consequence, Dr Adams visits his hometown religiously every year, to be with friends and relatives, and personally liaise with members of the local Chapter. With his commitment to see his hometown return to its glory days, Adams always exhorts members of the Fund to identify and work on projects that in the long term would benefit Linden.
With this great son of the soil at the helm, the Linden Fund over the years has also sponsored several events during the Linden Town Week, which benefit educators, students and senior citizens.
His latest sojourn here, not surprisingly, was during the last Town Week celebrations. I grasped the opportunity to interview this accomplished, yet humble man, who mesmerised me as he spoke candidly and sometimes emotionally of his inspiring life.
“I attended Christianburg Primary and later the Mackenzie High School. I’m happy to say that I was molded and shaped into who I am today, by some of the most excellent teachers. Those teachers were more like surrogate parents – they were our role models and mentors. They took special care and interest in us. Ironically, some of that care went too far, because I think I was singled out for them to be cruel to. What other kids got away with I couldn’t. If I got one word wrong, I got a whipping. I even remember this quite vividly – getting third position in class, and I thought it was a big deal, but I got a whipping, because the teacher (Hector Parris) at the time whipped me soundly because I didn’t secure the first position!”
Adams further reminisced, “…there was a young teacher by the name of Cyril Campbell, he was probably about nineteen at the time. He was like my big brother, he and another teacher (Joe Benjamin)… they lived not far from us in Gardenia Street, and basically held my hands; they were like another father to me.
I spent most of my time with them, except for nights, when I went home. They taught me how to play cricket and table tennis. The result was that at the age of fourteen I became arguably the best table tennis player in my time.”
Two years later, when Adams was sixteen, his other teacher (Cyril Campbell) took him to Georgetown, and secured a place for him to play in the trials for the under-19 team.
“I became the first player from Linden – one of only two players to represent Guyana at cricket.”
An ardent lover of cricket, Adams was the first Lindener to represent Guyana at both junior and senior levels. His cricketing career was however short-lived, with an injury from an automobile accident being significant enough for his life to change course.
He subsequently enrolled at the University of Guyana, where he obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in Civil and Public Health Engineering. Adams later won scholarships for post-graduate studies at Ohio University and the University of Missouri, where he attained his Masters’ Degrees in Groundwater Hydrology and Geological Petroleum Engineering respectively, and completed a PhD in Environmental Engineering at the University of Tennessee.
Adams pointed out that while corporal punishment was never pleasant to him as a child, it definitely made a difference in his whole attitude towards life; and contrary to what is being touted by those ‘in the know’ he and none of his classmates from the Mackenzie High School suffered any sort of psychological damage, despite the many ‘whip lashings’.
“There were some famous teachers who ruled by the whip, and when you look at our successes, our very high levels of achievement, I think we were shaped by this form of discipline more than anything else! I mean it doesn’t sound too good, but that whip certainly instilled a lot of discipline in us, that is so sadly lacking today.”
He unapologetically asserts that the general breakdown in discipline and ever escalating violence in schools today have exacerbated with the banning of corporal punishment.
“Children now have no fear of teachers, because the least reprimand is cited as abuse – so they have the perfect crutch. Unlike long ago when we did something wrong, we knew we would be punished, these children do anything, and basically get away with it.”
Fueling the fires of ill-discipline and disrespect, is the demeanour of some teachers, whose attitudes leave very much to be desired, Adams feels.
He drew attention to a particular case during the last Town Week celebrations, where a teacher “was most inappropriately dressed and wining down in the middle of the street with alcohol; bending down and shaking her body provocatively.”
“Now with that kind of lewd behaviour coming from a teacher, how do you expect the kids to behave?” You cannot impose discipline and demand respect, if you yourself are not disciplined, and you lack self-respect. So it’s not just the lack of corporal punishment, but too many teachers are not conducting themselves to command respect.”
Dr Adams is adamant that a country has to first of all have both social and strong disciplinary structures in place, in order to progress.
“People are not going to come and invest if there is no law and order and strong institutions.”
He cited China, which is “on top of the world” now, noting that the reason for their phenomenal progress is that the country invested heavily in education at the right level (primary and secondary) with the result that illiteracy is currently only 9%.
Dr Adams has held a number of prestigious posts in the United States, among them, the Office Director, US Department of Energy Engineering and Technology and Consultant, International Atomic Energy Agency.
His first appointment with the Department of Energy, as Office Director, was secured after he was selected from a field of several thousand applicants, which was later tailored to twenty persons who were assigned special projects, and assessed accordingly. Our ‘special person’ was adjudged the top performer, and subsequently became a Senior Executive. He is tasked with protecting the country’s water resources from contamination from nuclear and other energy activities.
Dr Adams travels extensively to attend to job related matters, but his annual homeland sojourn remains a highpoint for him.
You would probably think that with all his accomplishments, Vincent Adams would be an arrogant personality, but he is the total opposite. He is one of the most accessible persons you are ever likely to meet.
Here is a man that’s not too big to become watery-eyed, whenever he talks about his mother; a strong woman, who did everything for her children, but couldn’t help them with their school work, because she couldn’t read and write.
Vincent obviously loved her very much; family means a great deal to this man.
So, of course, does his beloved Linden. Asked about his position concerning the rumours circulating that the Kashif and Shanghai (K&S) Organisation will be taking over the administration of Linden Town Week, Dr Adams shared his candid opinion.
“I would like to say that while the council has done a stellar job over the past several years, in support of the new and inevitable vision for a free market economy, management of Town Week should be transitioned to the most capable private sector company. The local company of K & S is, by all accounts, the country’s top promoter, and has a proven track record of running the first and best Town Week to date. So I would have absolutely no problem if they are chosen to manage this most important Linden event.”
And as an aside, almost an afterthought, Adams concedes at the end of our discourse, “You know, this country has so much potential and it’s a real shame that we have not been exploiting this the way we ought to. I personally would not mind putting my engineering and other skills to work here for the further development of this country. And I think I would love to be President, not for what I can gain from that, but what I could give. As a matter of fact, if I could live off the money I make now, I would run this country for free; because for me, development and progress in any country is paramount.
A committed son of the soil, Dr Vincent Adams is unquestionably a special person.
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