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A delightfully unstuffy affair (featuring Malcolm Gladwell) at the UWI Toronto Benefit Gala

E. Nigel Harris and Malcolm Gladwell (Image: Erin Simkin)

More fancy Toronto benefit galas should be like the third annual University of the West Indies Toronto Benefit Gala at the Four Seasons Hotel on Saturday night. Guests shared warm embraces and rowdy laughs, a drum circle in colourful costumes ushered the food to the table, and a string of talented musicians delighted those on hand from start to finish. Special guests honoured at the proceedings included the New Yorkers Malcolm Gladwell, Canadian artist (and friend of Michelle Obama) Artis Lane, former Cabinet minister Zanana Akande, top lawyer Frank Walwyn and cultural philanthropist Dr. Anthony MacFarlane.

Nineteen-year-old Quincy Bullen greeted VIP guests with a ditty on the jazz piano as they entered the reception and sipped (cheesy) tropical fruit cocktails. We spotted Gladwell in an intense conversation with UWI vice-chancellor E. Nigel Harris—but otherwise, the renowned author was surprisingly terse and mysterious. The rest of the room, on the other hand, buzzed with excitement. Ten-year-old Keon Marshall added musical number to the evening’s ticket with a soulful rendition of the Canadian national anthem, which had guests gushing (his charm was rivalled only by bow-tie-clad Frank Walwyn, whom we were completely taken with). The Eddie Bullen Ensemble and Divine Brown also regaled attendees with musical numbers of their own. All proceeds from the gala go toward the UWI Scholarship Fund, which supports outstanding achievers.