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Bahamian Daphne Hanna, who grew up studying by the light of oil lamps, earned a Master’s Degree in 2014 and will soon complete her CPA requirements.

By Hilary Reeves

Daphne Hanna was born the sixth of seven children in the picturesque community of Pirate’s Well on the Bahamian island of Mayaguana, a town aptly named after the buccaneers who successfully dug drinking wells on the island centuries ago – though it’s rumored many of the wells were actually used to hide treasure.

Daphne Hanna wearing a business suit leans against a shelf in a warehouseHer father, an ordained Pastor, fisherman, farmer, and agent for Bahamasair, the country’s national flag carrier, and her mother, a librarian, were strict disciplinarians.

“Growing up in that vibrant, bustling household, I learned the value of hard work and discipline,” she said. “Waking up before dawn was a regular routine. My family worked on the farms, planting, sowing and reaping. Other days we spent cleaning conch (shells) that my father and brothers would bring up from the sea floor. My upbringing only enhanced the importance of education.”

Hanna attended the Pirate’s Well All Age School until her junior year of high school, when she was awarded an academic scholarship to the Government High School in Nassau. She was elected Deputy Head Girl, eventually transitioning to Florida Atlantic University and earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration in 1992.

“I always had an affinity for numbers,” she said. “I wanted to work in a field that would allow me to utilize my gifts.”

After graduation, Hanna was hired as an assistant financial controller at Purity Bakery in Nassau, where she worked for the next decade. In February 2003, she was contacted by a Tropical employee who had previously transitioned from Purity Bakery. Tropical was looking for an accounts supervisor. Hanna applied and was awarded the position.

“It was amazing, because up until that point, I wasn’t very knowledgeable about the shipping industry or Tropical.”

She was also juggling graduate school. Hanna began pursuing her Master’s Degree in Accounting at Nova Southeastern University in 2012, almost a decade after she joined Tropical. She graduated in 2014.

Hanna stands in the Tropical Shipping in Nassau, her office overlooks the busy warehouse floor
Hanna stands in the Tropical Shipping in Nassau, her office overlooks the busy warehouse floor

“Working and going to school was a difficult, but achievable task,” Hanna said. “With the assistance of a very supportive husband, I was able to succeed. The fact that my husband and I have no children has afforded me the opportunity to study for extended hours without interruption. I’m so grateful to have such an understanding spouse. After a long day at work, I was able to relax and study as my husband prepared the meals and completed other chores. Without such an awesome support system, I’m sure that balancing work, home and school would have been almost intolerable.”

Recently promoted to Regional Accounting Manager for the Bahamas, Hanna is known to her coworkers as a “professional student;” she has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Her responsibilities include payroll, group health administration, preparing check request for payment, reconciling AP statements, cash management, A/R deposit upload, and value-added tax filing and reconciliation.

“I’ve gotten where I am today through hard work, dedication, and determination,” she said. “I’ve been honored to work with a talented and supportive team who works diligently to achieve company goals and objectives.”

Due to the economic downturn, one of the island’s major resorts filed bankruptcy, contributing to a high level of unemployment. Additionally, with the introduction of Value Added Tax, the cost of living has increased and consumer confidence has decreased. Even so, Tropical Shipping has maintained more than 50 percent market share in the Bahamas, an achievement Hanna said is due mainly to Tropical’s superior customer service.

Daphne stands outside a Tropical warehouse.Though her recent promotion ranks highest among her proudest moments, her Master’s commencement ceremony was also a proud moment. She is currently pursuing her dream of becoming a Certified Public Accountant, a dream cultivated by the light of the oil lamps she used to study while back in Pirate’s Well.

“I’m enthusiastically working to complete my CPA degree by the end of 2016,” Hanna said. “To date, I’ve successfully completed two of the four sections.”

Hanna and her husband, Cranston, to whom she’s been married for 20 years, are deeply involved in their community. She’s a Sunday school teacher, a member of the building committee and choir member in her local church, striving for selflessness and continual growth. She hasn’t been back to Pirate’s Well in seven years, but her mother frequently travels to Nassau, where four of her siblings also now live.

“(Pirate’s Well) is a place that is close to my heart, and one that I will always consider ‘home,’” she said. “I plan to visit very soon.”

Hanna’s favorite maxim by C. S. Lewis reads, “You’re never too old to set another goal, or to dream another dream.” She encourages everyone never to quit, to always strive to achieve their dreams, whether young or old.