As part of the annual celebration commemorating the birthday of slain civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ex-Teachers’ Association last Sunday honored popular dentist Renrick Benn.
Dr. Benn was the lone honoree at the gala, sell-out event at Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn.
“It’s a good feeling,” Dr. Benn told Caribbean Life briefly immediately after the honor was conferred. “I’m glad they chose me, but I also recognize that there are a lot of deserving people.”
Jackson Farrell, the group’s president and a veteran public school teacher in Brooklyn, said the accolade bestowed on Dr. Benn was “well deserved.
“His support of the SVG (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) Teachers’ Association and other organizations has been constant over the years,” Farrell said.
“He richly deserves the recognition, as he is held in high esteem by SVG Ex-Teachers,” he added about Dr. Benn.
The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ex-Teachers Association also recognized honorary member Elizabeth Hewitt and supporter Joyce Miller, presenting them with a bouquet of flowers.
Dr. Benn, who practices dentistry in Brooklyn and resides in Valley Stream, L.I., reached Form 4 at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Grammar School before migrating to New York in 1965.
Benn was raised in his early years by his grandparents. Following the premature death of his grandmother, he moved to New York to live with his mother.
His last year of high school was completed at the Eastern District High School in Brooklyn.
In 1974, Benn graduated from Hunter College, City University of New York (CUNY) with a bachelor of science degree in Health Sciences.
From 1974-82, he conducted research – first at Columbia Presbyterian Institute of Health, in muscular dystrophy; then, at Brooklyn Veteran’s Hospital, in endocrinology.
During that time, he completed a master’s program in Medical Microbiology at Long Island University.
Benn then attended the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Dentistry from 1982-86.
He completed a year-long residency in General Dentistry in 1987, while he continued to intensify his interest in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, the medically-inclined specialty of dentistry.
From 1987-91, Benn trained as a resident in Oral and Maxillofacial surgery at Harlem Hospital.
At the end of his residency training, Benn pursued private practice, first as an associate to Dr. Bruce Maltz, an established Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon in Brooklyn.
He later worked as a solo practitioner and also as an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon at Bedford Stuyvesant Family Medical Center, with Hanson Place Dental Associates, in Brooklyn.
Farrell also noted past honorees, including James Cordice, Godfrey Pitt, O’Brien Simmons and Carver Bennett.
He also joined with other speakers – including United Nations Ambassador I. Rhonda King, New York Counsel General Selmon Walters and Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines President Laverne McDowald-Thompson – in remembering those who lost their lives in the vehicular tragedy, on Jan. 12, in the North Windward constituency in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“As the saying goes, ‘in the midst of life, there is death,’” King said. “So even as we celebrate another successful year in the history of the Ex-teachers’ Association, we mourn the lives of seven young persons who lost their lives in a horrific accident last Monday on their way to school.
“Our neighbors in St. Lucia suffered a similar tragedy two days after, on Jan. 14, when four persons were killed in another terrible road accident, two were four or six-year-old children of Vincentian national David Agard,” she noted. “In one week we lost 11 persons, nine of whom were mere children, ages ranging from four to 18.”
Walters said: “We honor those who lost their lives in Fancy and those (who died) last year (2013) during the (freak Christmas) storm.”
McDowald-Thompson said the tragedy at home “touched many of us.
“I just want you to remember the families in prayer,” she said. “Lift them up!”
As the ex-teachers celebrate their 32nd anniversary and remember Dr. King, Farrell urged his compatriots to “use what is happening now as a teaching moment.
“Let us realize we are very far from the mountain top,” he said. “There’s a lot of work still to be done.
“Let us strive to be good to one another; bring out the best in our fellowmen, then we will be doing our Father’s work,” he added.