David Ramjohn '04. Photo by Kibwe Brathwaite.

David Ramjohn ’04. Photo by Kibwe Brathwaite.

Some people just can’t catch a break. For a while, David Ramjohn ‘04 was one of those people. Growing up poor in Trinidad and Tobago, Ramjohn suffered many hardships, most often the results of bureaucratic mishaps. Like the time a government clerk combined his middle name, Ram, and surname, John, to give him a unique last name: Ramjohn. Or the time the government granted him a scholarship to college, and then suddenly revoked it for administrative reasons. The next year, they did the same thing, again, even after he had started taking classes!

Ramjohn persevered. In the 1990s, while working as a fisheries specialist on Trinidad, Ramjohn helped host a group of visiting researchers from South Carolina. In short order, Ramjohn leveraged this meeting into an opportunity to attend the College of Charleston. He graduated in 2004 after having been awarded the Bishop Robert Smith Award – the top honor given to College of Charleston undergraduates.

RELATED: Learn more about majoring in marine biology at the College of Charleston.

Ramjohn then returned to Trinidad and Tobago and resumed a successful career in environmental regulation. Now, he’s trying his hand in the private sector as CEO of green energy company Synergy Resources Limited Trinidad and Tobago.

Here are three takeaways from his life story:

1. Keep your head up.

When things didn’t go Ramjohn’s way in life, he shrugged his shoulders and soldiered on. Complaining, he decided, wouldn’t change a thing. For example, after his dream of landing a college scholarship was crushed twice in two years, Ramjohn just plowed ahead. “I threw myself back into my work,” he says. “There was nothing else I could do.”

2. Reading is essential.

The best piece of advice Ramjohn ever received was not from any fancy academic, but rather from a taxi driver who was also his stepfather. “Read everything you can get your hands on,” the man told him. And so Ramjohn did, eventually becoming an author himself of a book listing 1,200 species of marine life found around Trinidad and Tobago.

3. A liberal arts education is your key to the world.

At the College, Ramjohn’s professors challenged him to analyze subjects critically and then relate his thoughts clearly and succinctly. This training empowered Ramjohn. “Give me enough time and I can do any person’s job,” he says of the practicality of a liberal arts education. “I was taught how to think. I was taught how to learn. You can’t beat that.”

RELATED: Read more about David Ramjohn’s life in the pages of College of Charleston Magazine.