Susanne Lyon

Susanne Lyon came to the Jamaica National Heritage Trust as Executive Director in May 2002 and during her tenure, we have come to understand that the S at the beginning of her name stands for strength, stamina and standards…very high standards that she sets for herself and everyone around her.

When Miss Lyon arrived at the Trust on May 1, 2002, she was no stranger to the organization. She had in fact, served briefly on the Board of Trustees as Acting Commissioner of Lands. She was soon to find out however that the transition from Trustee to ED was no easy task. She had no honeymoon period.

First there was the Convention for the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage Conference hosted by UNESCO in association with the JNHT. Then there was the contentious issue of the licence agreement between the government and Admiralty Corporation which meant she had to quickly familiarize herself with a large volume of technical documentation and information - a task that she accomplished rapidly and in time to lead the JNHT's team to successfully represent Jamaica's interests.

And there was the Monument erected in memory of the Most Hon Michael Manley, a man who holds a larger than life status in our nation. The fact that structural flaws were revealed after its unveiling drew some serious heat from all sectors of the society. Susanne inherited this problem, but like a true champion, she took the heat and set about getting her team to quietly fix the problem. Today, the monument stands proud and erect within the park and the complaints have stopped. There are also new storyboards within the National Heroes Park, erected as guides to persons visiting the park.

Between 1999 and 2002 when she arrived, the JNHT had seen six different persons sitting in the executive chair. Susanne had to deal with staff who were demotivated and battle weary. It was not long before there were confrontations and even a visit to the Industrial Disputes Tribunal. That she survived and accomplished all she did is testament to her strength of character, leadership qualities and above all strong faith in God.

When she came to the JNHT, one of her major objectives was to change the image of the Trust, to make it more proactive in the preservation and maintenance of its own properties. She wanted to set an example for private owners, so that they too would take an interest in maintaining and developing their heritage properties. She visited all the sites, developing an appreciation for their beauty and value. She met with the monument guards and developed a special rapport with many of them. She scheduled major cleaning up and maintenance of sites such as Seville, Colbeck Castle, Stokes Hall, Easington and Stony Gut. The calls about the poor maintenance of sites became fewer.

Susanne brought to the Trust 24 years of experience and technical expertise from the Land Valuation Department and she used it all to the advantage of the Trust. One of the first projects that the Trustees mandated her to do was the relocation of the staff of the Division of Archaeology from their dilapidated quarters at the Old Naval Hospital in Port Royal to 79 Duke Street. She worked tirelessly on the renovation of the annex of Headquarters House. Today, Archaeology is at 79 Duke St. Mission accomplished.

Believing in the Trust’s policy of public education, she pushed for the refurbishing of the exhibitions at Seville Heritage Park in St. Ann and Blenheim in Hanover. The Seville exhibition in particular brought much satisfaction as it was done in time to facilitate over 700 visitors from Lynn University in Florida who toured the site. Miss Lyon was with her staff until the wee hours of the morning as they worked to get the exhibition ready – a fact that they appreciated.

Other projects completed under her watch include the construction of a visitors’ lodge at Stony Gut in St, Thomas, the publication of the book and exhibition Jamaica’s Journey to Independence, the publication of the book Spanish Jamaica in collaboration with UNESCO and the Spanish Government, the erection of the park of World Heroes and the beginning of the process to designate Downtown Kingston a heritage district. In fact, she is particularly proud of the current move to develop guidelines for development and restoration in Falmouth and Downtown Kingston.

Her efforts at networking were phenomenal as she wanted other government and private agencies to become more aware of the role of the JNHT in the restoration and development process. She sat on committees such as the Spanish Town Historic District Preservation Committee, working towards developing the sites in their community. She has paved the way for greater dialogue between the Trust and other agencies and community groups, that augurs well for the development of heritage and the work of the JNHT.

Despite her busy schedule at the JNHT, Susanne found time to further her education. This year she achieved an MBA from the Florida International University, a feat of which she was very proud. This goes nicely with her BSc in Urban Estate Management from the University of Westminster and her Diploma from CAST.

She also found time to be active in her Citizens Association, be president of the Association of Land Economy and Valuation Surveyors, provide voluntary teaching service to an inner-city group and lecture part-time at UTECH.

Although she has been at the Trust for only three years Susanne has made a significant mark on the operations of the institution and must feel proud of her accomplishments.

Susanne, for your role in enabling the Jamaica National Heritage Trust to meet its mandate of preserving, protecting, restoring, maintaining and promoting the heritage of the Jamaican people we salute you and wish you all the best in your future endeavours.




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