He was born the son of a preacher man and to a mother with an indomitable spirit. No wonder then that he too is driven by a sense of mission, stoked by a passion to match.
Nelson Christian Stokes arrived at Munro for Sixth Form in September 1980, having completed the earlier phase of his high school education at Cornwall College. After escaping the spotlight of life in a school where his father was Principal, life in the City on a Hill was a more settled and tranquil affair. It seemed, though, that he was never content to take the easy route. For Lower Sixth he did the sciences, then thought better of it and switched to the arts in Upper Sixth, successfully completing his ‘A’ levels in one year.
His Munro days were not all about academics, however; far from it. He played DaCosta Cup football in both Lower and Upper Sixth, and had the honour of being on the 1981 team which made it all the way to the third and fourth place game just before that years’ DaCosta Cup Final. Even greater distinction awaited him the following year, when at the 1982 Boys Championships he became the first Munronian since P. Swaby in 1948, and the last before Delano Williams, to win the marquee Class One 100m.
History records that Douglas Manley sprang a huge surprise at the 1941 Champs when he equalled his father’s 100 yards record of 10 seconds, set in 1911. It was perhaps an even bigger upset when Chris Stokes ran away from the field in 1982, leaving the much more fancied Leroy Reid and Greg Meghoo in his wake. By chance or design, Chris got out of the blocks quickly, forcing the two favourites into the unfamiliar role of chasing him. Reid had a suspect hamstring, which gave in, and Meghoo had a suspect head, and he gave up. Chris is by no means a small fellow, but this was a giant-killing feat, and cemented a special place in Jamaican track and field lore for him. He made it look easy, like ‘cool runnings,’ and it was this confident, giant-killing swagger that he would eventually take from track to ice.
Fresh out of the protected environs of Munro, he confidently faced the challenges of the wider world when he walked into Bronx Community College in New York. There he completed an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts, Magna Cum Laude, and was named in Who’s Who in American Junior Colleges publication. He served as Co-Editor of the college’s newspaper, received the Most Outstanding Student award in History and English, 1983 and 1984, and was adjudged Most Outstanding Athlete, also for 1983 and 1984.
From there it was on to the University of Idaho, at Moscow, Idaho, on a track and field scholarship, where he read for a Bachelor of Science in Finance, Cum Laude, from 1985 to 1987. The academic journey continued at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington from 1987 to 1989, when he pursued an MBA in Finance, focused on Corporate Finance and International Finance. In 2000, he graduated with Honours from Stonier Graduate School of Banking, at Georgetown University, the leading graduate school of banking in the USA. The academic experience continues even now at the University of the West Indies, where he is pursuing a PhD in Economic Development Policy. His dissertation topic is “The Relationship between Leadership Style and Organizational Financial Performance in Selected Listed Financial Sector Companies in Jamaica.”
That lengthy academic journey has been reinforced by extensive working experience in related fields. For one year – January 1988 to January 1989, he was a financial analyst with the consulting firm Conrad Douglas and Associates, in Kingston, Jamaica. He was a lecturer at the College of Business and Economics at University of Idaho from 1990 to 1993, and there he had earlier served as Assistant Business Manager.
Back home in Jamaica, his roles at Victoria Mutual Building Society, from 1994 to 2005 were among his most prominent. He served as Assistant Vice-President for Planning & Research, Vice-President for Business Development, and Senior Vice-President for Business Development. One of his early roles saw him being the Building Society’s chief writer on a committee to develop best practice policy documents as directed by Bank of Jamaica during a critical period in the evolution of the country’s financial services sector.
Chris became General Manager for the International Business Division at National Commercial Bank, Jamaica, in 2005. There he was responsible for increasing the bank’s share of business in overseas markets. Specific responsibilities included the international remittance business and the offshore banking business. He turned around the remittance business from a loss to profit position in 18 months.
Eventually the call to pursue his own dreams, use his own gifts and make his own dent in the universe led to the establishment of NCS Enterprises, based in Kingston, for which he is CEO.
NCS serves as the umbrella organization for a group of companies for which he is founder and Executive Chairman, focusing on alternative financial services, leadership development and sports administration. He started a money services business, NCS eMoney Services (TCI) Limited, and grew it to the largest money services business in the Turks and Caicos Islands, offering remittances, bill payments, prepaid cards and pay day loans. He does extensive team building and leadership training for corporations, and is President and part owner of the Jamaica Bobsleigh Team sports franchise, and founder of Akan Track Club.
The story of how Chris Stokes became involved in bobsleigh is part-serendipity-part-destiny, and one hundred per cent inspiration. While he was at Washington State University, training to make Jamaica’s track and field team to the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, he got a call from his brother to come and watch him compete in the two-man competition at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, Canada. While there, a member of the four-man team was injured and he was recruited on the spot to join the team. So, on Monday he was seeing a bobsleigh for the first time, and by the Saturday morning he was in his first Olympics as a brakeman on the Jamaican Bobsleigh Team.
The team recorded the 7th fastest start time of over forty sleds but famously crashed. However, the boldness, brashness and heroism of an unlikely group of Jamaicans in impossible circumstances competing in the Olympic Games inspired millions around the world and formed the basis for the cult classic Disney Movie, Cool Runnings, one of the most successful in the history of that genre.
From that start Chris Stokes went on to compete in three more Olympic Winter Games, including the 1994 Olympic team which shook the sporting world by beating traditional bobsleigh nations such as Switzerland, Italy, France, and most notably, the United States. He competed in his last Olympic Games in 1998, and served as President of the Jamaica Bobsleigh Federation from 1996 to 2014. Since 2014 he has served as Chairman of the Jamaica Bobsleigh Federation. He later wrote the book Cool Runnings and Beyond – the Story of the Jamaica Bobsleigh Team, which is now the defining history of the Jamaica Bobsleigh team.
For these and other reasons, Nelson Chris Stokes has been inducted into the Munro College Old Boys Association Hall of Fame.