Remembering Ava Coley Rich (1928-2022)

Posted: February 01, 2023

By Sylvia Lassam, Rolph-Bell Archivist

Ava Rich

Ava Coley Rich

Two years ago our Black History Month contribution focused on the presence at the College of students from the Caribbean islands, notably the alumnus Ivan McFarlane, who passed away in 2020. This year, we return to the islands, specifically Jamaica, and a young woman who entered Trinity College in 1953, one of the first of the post-colonial, post World War II wave of Black students who were turned away from Britain and the United States by restrictive immigration policies.

Ava Coley was born in Grantham, Jamaica, on April 17, 1928, the only child of Thomas Coley who, her obituary states, “ensured…that she wanted for nothing and was well-educated”. In Jamaica she attended St. Hugh’s Preparatory School, run by the Anglican Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

After teaching for a short time on Grand Cayman, Ava came to Trinity College where she lived in residence at St. Hilda’s, along with a fellow Jamaican, Fay Hylton. She graduated in 1956 with a BSc (Zoology) and a teaching certificate from the Royal Conservatory of Music. Her music training because the basis of a 40-year career as a teaching of piano and voice in Calgary. She was also a talented painter, a lover of fashion and cooking, and a mother of three. She passed away on October 30, 2022 at the age of 94.

Ava’s daughter Judi Rich (Class of 1989), offers this impression of her mother’s time at Trinity:

“Yes, she did enjoy her time at Trinity – luckily she was very smart, as I think she actually studied the bare minimum. She really engaged herself in all the Trinity events offered – she vastly enjoyed the social component of college life.

It was a very different world from where she was raised near Kingston, Jamaica…not just in climate (she even loved the winters in Toronto!)…but in food, culture, everything. But she was raised with a remarkable capacity to flourish in any environment (I saw this in my own life), to both develop herself, and connect with others. Trinity and St Hilda’s (she was in residence, as was I when there) provided a great space for her to grow.

I clearly remember, as a preschooler, visiting Toronto (we were based in Calgary) and her taking myself and my two older siblings to Trinity. We were standing in the St Hilda’s entrance area, and I could feel how much she adored the place…which is when I think I decided I would also land up there!”

The Rich family shared this video that they presented at their mother’s service:


Categories: Alumni; College News