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First Lady DeJongh Chosen as Rotary II's Person of the Year

Feb. 21, 2007 — She is gracious and thoughtful and has had a long and quiet career in volunteer activities. She is also a woman for all seasons — a straightforward and efficient executive, whose primary focus, however, has always been her family.
She is Cecile Rene Galiber deJongh, Rotary Club of St. Thomas II 2007 Person of the Year.
First lady deJongh looked up with astonishment from the table where she sat Wednesday with her husband, Gov. John deJongh Jr., when Person of the Year Committee Chair Elliott MacIver Davis made the announcement, which immediately brought the house to its feet for a standing ovation.
Before the official announcement, and with his customary flair for language, Davis carried on the suspense as long as he thought he could. He said, "At this point, sad to say, I have reached and stretched the envelope of my enigmatic capabilities, and so I must now commence the process of revealing the identity of our recipient."
It was unnecessary — the cat was clearly out of the bag. When Davis had said "she" was not a Rotarian, that "she is an intellectual powerhouse with whom I have worked on the board of one of our island institutions [Antilles School]," and that her nomination is a first for the club, the crowd knew who would walk out of the luncheon with the prized Don Quixote Lladro statuette, the club's symbol of selflessness, of service over self.
Cecile deJongh was clearly surprised. She walked to the podium accompanied by her husband; and two of their three children, Rene and J.P., suddenly appeared at their side.
After a smiling "thank-you," deJongh was brief and modest. "This is a big surprise. I couldn't believe it was me," she said. "I was sitting there thinking of all the things I want to do – I thought maybe, in a few years. I'm just overwhelmed that you hold me in such high esteem."
The first lady said, "This is the fourth-best thing that has happened to me after marrying John and having our three children." She paused with a laugh, "No, that would be the fifth-best thing."
Davis said in a release last week that this year's Person would "be a first," and "it is noted that no one has ever received the award twice."
The meaning of the last statement was a reference to 2000, when, as a businessman and community leader, John deJongh was the 2000 Person of the Year. Davis said he had researched his files and noted that deJongh said at the time, the award was the "second-best thing" that had happened to him — the first when Cecile agreed to marry him.
He may have added another "best thing" after his election as governor of the Virgin Islands last year.
It's always a big rigmarole to get the recipient to the luncheon without letting on the reason, and this year's was no different, requiring some finesse. After the ceremony, Gov. deJongh said, "I told Cecile that today was the Person of the Year award, and that Rotary likes for former recipients to attend the luncheon. Then, I told her now that I'm governor, I should go and she should go with me. And that worked."
DeJongh gave a wide smile, looking pleased with himself. "I really didn't tell anybody at all, except I had to tell the kids this morning so they could get away from school."
Cecile deJongh is the daughter of Dr. Andre and Edith Rose Galiber. She graduated from St. Dunstan's Middle and High School on St. Croix and earned a marketing degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis.
Davis called deJongh "an extraordinary businesswoman." He said, "After a distinguished career in banking, she currently manages one of the island's financial services corporations and pre-eminent charitable foundations." That is the J. Epstein Virgin Islands Foundation, which brought some of the planet's leading physicists here last year.
While politely accepting congratulations after the ceremony, Cecile deJongh was anxious to talk about her work with the national organization Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). The organization was founded 20 years ago by parents of children with AD/HD looking for information and support.
DeJongh said, "There is nothing like this here. I am working on setting up a local chapter as a not-for-profit organization." To that end, she recently attended a three-day intensive training session in Tampa, Fla.
"It's called Parent to Parent," she said. "It's family training on ADD and other disorders. It's a very intense course, and it's taught by parents. The way it is now here, each person has to forge for themselves. I want to pass on that training to other parents. There isn't any one place to learn about how to treat children now.
"The Kids Count report says 70 percent of our children suffer from learning disabilities," she said. "We can help to solve that problem. Many people believe that treating ADD is about medication; it isn't."
Davis talked about deJongh's work with CHADD. "With her pioneering work on this cause, in the islands children will no longer fall through the cracks at school. Her work will shine through on this important community need."
He also mentioned little-known volunteer efforts of deJongh's, including Habitat for Humanity, for which deJongh donated the land for its first home in the territory.
He also brought up Gov. deJongh's recent, hard-fought gubernatorial campaign. "Cecile was a close advisor to the candidate, and her advice was given increasing credence as the campaign progressed," Davis said. "When mud was slung in the heat of the pitched battle that it became, her calm and sure voice speaking out to the community on behalf of her family resonated with an electorate tiring of personal attacks with little credibility, and even less credibility to the qualifications of the candidates, themselves."
Davis referred to a series of spurious articles by The Avis newspaper to discredit deJongh, published last year shortly before the gubernatorial elections.
He concluded, "As the first lady of our islands, she is a priceless role model for our young women, displaying a beauty, grace and personal and professional accomplishment. He spoke of the "style and graciousness she has already brought to Government Houses on all three islands.
"She has already grasped and educated her staff that these are the people's houses and the people should all feel welcomed and comfortable when invited to visit them."
Several previous recipients of the award were there to congratulate deJongh, including UVI President LaVerne Ragster. "You should have seen the expression on your face," she told deJongh. "It was classic!"
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Feb. 21, 2007 -- She is gracious and thoughtful and has had a long and quiet career in volunteer activities. She is also a woman for all seasons -- a straightforward and efficient executive, whose primary focus, however, has always been her family.
She is Cecile Rene Galiber deJongh, Rotary Club of St. Thomas II 2007 Person of the Year.
First lady deJongh looked up with astonishment from the table where she sat Wednesday with her husband, Gov. John deJongh Jr., when Person of the Year Committee Chair Elliott MacIver Davis made the announcement, which immediately brought the house to its feet for a standing ovation.
Before the official announcement, and with his customary flair for language, Davis carried on the suspense as long as he thought he could. He said, "At this point, sad to say, I have reached and stretched the envelope of my enigmatic capabilities, and so I must now commence the process of revealing the identity of our recipient."
It was unnecessary -- the cat was clearly out of the bag. When Davis had said "she" was not a Rotarian, that "she is an intellectual powerhouse with whom I have worked on the board of one of our island institutions [Antilles School]," and that her nomination is a first for the club, the crowd knew who would walk out of the luncheon with the prized Don Quixote Lladro statuette, the club's symbol of selflessness, of service over self.
Cecile deJongh was clearly surprised. She walked to the podium accompanied by her husband; and two of their three children, Rene and J.P., suddenly appeared at their side.
After a smiling "thank-you," deJongh was brief and modest. "This is a big surprise. I couldn't believe it was me," she said. "I was sitting there thinking of all the things I want to do – I thought maybe, in a few years. I'm just overwhelmed that you hold me in such high esteem."
The first lady said, "This is the fourth-best thing that has happened to me after marrying John and having our three children." She paused with a laugh, "No, that would be the fifth-best thing."
Davis said in a release last week that this year's Person would "be a first," and "it is noted that no one has ever received the award twice."
The meaning of the last statement was a reference to 2000, when, as a businessman and community leader, John deJongh was the 2000 Person of the Year. Davis said he had researched his files and noted that deJongh said at the time, the award was the "second-best thing" that had happened to him -- the first when Cecile agreed to marry him.
He may have added another "best thing" after his election as governor of the Virgin Islands last year.
It's always a big rigmarole to get the recipient to the luncheon without letting on the reason, and this year's was no different, requiring some finesse. After the ceremony, Gov. deJongh said, "I told Cecile that today was the Person of the Year award, and that Rotary likes for former recipients to attend the luncheon. Then, I told her now that I'm governor, I should go and she should go with me. And that worked."
DeJongh gave a wide smile, looking pleased with himself. "I really didn't tell anybody at all, except I had to tell the kids this morning so they could get away from school."
Cecile deJongh is the daughter of Dr. Andre and Edith Rose Galiber. She graduated from St. Dunstan's Middle and High School on St. Croix and earned a marketing degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis.
Davis called deJongh "an extraordinary businesswoman." He said, "After a distinguished career in banking, she currently manages one of the island's financial services corporations and pre-eminent charitable foundations." That is the J. Epstein Virgin Islands Foundation, which brought some of the planet's leading physicists here last year.
While politely accepting congratulations after the ceremony, Cecile deJongh was anxious to talk about her work with the national organization Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). The organization was founded 20 years ago by parents of children with AD/HD looking for information and support.
DeJongh said, "There is nothing like this here. I am working on setting up a local chapter as a not-for-profit organization." To that end, she recently attended a three-day intensive training session in Tampa, Fla.
"It's called Parent to Parent," she said. "It's family training on ADD and other disorders. It's a very intense course, and it's taught by parents. The way it is now here, each person has to forge for themselves. I want to pass on that training to other parents. There isn't any one place to learn about how to treat children now.
"The Kids Count report says 70 percent of our children suffer from learning disabilities," she said. "We can help to solve that problem. Many people believe that treating ADD is about medication; it isn't."
Davis talked about deJongh's work with CHADD. "With her pioneering work on this cause, in the islands children will no longer fall through the cracks at school. Her work will shine through on this important community need."
He also mentioned little-known volunteer efforts of deJongh's, including Habitat for Humanity, for which deJongh donated the land for its first home in the territory.
He also brought up Gov. deJongh's recent, hard-fought gubernatorial campaign. "Cecile was a close advisor to the candidate, and her advice was given increasing credence as the campaign progressed," Davis said. "When mud was slung in the heat of the pitched battle that it became, her calm and sure voice speaking out to the community on behalf of her family resonated with an electorate tiring of personal attacks with little credibility, and even less credibility to the qualifications of the candidates, themselves."
Davis referred to a series of spurious articles by The Avis newspaper to discredit deJongh, published last year shortly before the gubernatorial elections.
He concluded, "As the first lady of our islands, she is a priceless role model for our young women, displaying a beauty, grace and personal and professional accomplishment. He spoke of the "style and graciousness she has already brought to Government Houses on all three islands.
"She has already grasped and educated her staff that these are the people's houses and the people should all feel welcomed and comfortable when invited to visit them."
Several previous recipients of the award were there to congratulate deJongh, including UVI President LaVerne Ragster. "You should have seen the expression on your face," she told deJongh. "It was classic!"
Back Talk


Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.