Sun | Feb 23, 2020

Sir Derek, the epitome of excellence

Published:Monday | September 3, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Walcott... was a poet and intellectual without conceptual borders
Walcott... was a poet and intellectual without conceptual borders

Sir Derek Walcott

The epitome of university excellence is found in the journey of Derek Walcott from student to Nobel Laureate.

Walcott was one of the finest intellects of the 20th century, a literary giant from the Lesser Antilles.

A globally respected alumnus of The University of the West Indies and one of its two Nobel laureates from the island of St Lucia, Sir Derek's scholarly genius was first recognised while a student in the Faculty of Arts at the Mona campus in Jamaica.

His first collection of poems was locally published while still a student. As a student, he also engaged in playwriting, which he described as the most complicated literary form.

Sir Derek, who passed away on March, 17, 2017, graduated from The UWI, Mona, in 1953 and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters in 1973.

His literary works are known and lauded internationally, and he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992.

In addition to his personal works, Sir Derek's legacy is also his contributions to the field of literature regionally and internationally.

He founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop located in Trinidad and Tobago's capital, taught writing and literature at Boston University in the United States, and a scholarship was established in his name for students enrolled in the theatre arts programme at The UWI, St Augustine Campus.

A poet and intellectual without conceptual borders in a world that insists upon them, Sir Derek lived his life as he imagined his destiny determined.

At home in the Caribbean islands with his bloodlines that flowed in his veins from worlds beyond, he was a mind of universal sensitivity, an advocate of humanity before hubris, of sophisticated reasoning and living.

The motto of his beloved alma mater, The University of the West Indies, says it best: Oriens Ex Occidente Lux (a light rising from the West). This, indeed, was Sir Derek.