Diane Marie Quarless UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean
Today I remember Alison the girl with unquenchable spirit, brimming with mischief and fun, bright with promise. She filled our years at the St Andrew High School for Girls with unending joy, the distinctive high-pitched cackle that was her laugh proclaiming from afar her involvement in hi-jinks of the day. She was warm and kind; generous with her time and with herself. She made every one of her many friends feel they had a special place, and the friendships she made at SAHS lasted her entire lifetime. She was competitive and smart; we were teammates on the SAHS Schools Challenge Quiz Team, spending countless hours absorbing mountains of trivia for the adrenaline-fueled thrill of a fast-paced battle of wits.
I remember Alison the young woman and scholar coming into her own at the UWI; brilliant, articulate, passionate. A student of International Relations, she chose the path of the academic, inspiring and challenging her students at the UWI for more than twenty years. She would call on me to do guest lectures as a practitioner in the Foreign Ministry, and the year we collaborated to stage a Model OAS General Assembly to give her students a focus on issues of Latin America and the Caribbean for a change, she set the Faculty on its ear. It was awesome. She was totally committed to exposing young minds to global spheres of influence; to the precarious positioning of developing countries within this power dynamic. Her move to head Jamaica’s Child Development Agency, though seemingly a career shift, took her on a path of self-discovery. It was as if she had found her true calling, advocating fiercely for the care and protection of those most vulnerable in society. And she was good at it. Not surprising, therefore, that her sojourn in the public sector found her ultimately as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry responsible for Gender Affairs; her last assignment before reaching UN Women.
I remember Alison the cherished wife and mother of two wonderful sons; grandma to a little cherub. She loved and lost her beloved soulmate far too soon; she lost her younger brother not long after. She shouldered more than her fair share of sorrow, and yet it was in her times of trouble that we discovered that Alison the bright spirit was made of sterner stuff. She bore both loss and illness without complaint, demonstrating an incredible stoicism born of her faith and fortitude. She made me proud and humble to witness her courage; her mettle.
I remember she denounced me as a witch when, during my brief flirtation with Tarot cards, I ‘foretold’ the arrival of her beloved second son, Solomon. In the end he was her greatest blessing, her rock; at her side giving unending love and support in her final days.
Alison gave only three years of her incredible, unforgettable life to the UN. I have left it to those privileged to have served with her at UN Women and in the Barbados MCO to speak to the contribution she made towards advancing the welfare of women and girls in the Caribbean. This much I will say; the UN family experienced merely the zephyr winds of the force of nature that was Mary Alison Anderson McLean. She had so much more to give. Still, she has left an indelible mark with the unreserved passion and commitment that she gave to her work, and she will forever live in the hearts of those privileged to call her friend.
I will remember Alison, my lifelong, cherished friend. I loved her dearly. I will forever honour her memory.