ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The local academic community is mourning the death of one of the region’s most renowned economists and scholar.
Professor Emeritus at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona, Norman Girvan, passed away in Cuba on Wednesday after a suffering a fall while hiking in Dominica, three months ago, which left him paralysed.
Jamaican by birth, Girvan, 72, had a distinguished career in academia and was widely known as the leading regional authority on Caribbean Political Economy. He was also a Professorial Research Fellow at UWI’s Institute of International Relations.
Reacting to his death, Head of the UWI Open Campus in Antigua & Barbuda, Ian Benn, said the death of Professor Girvan is a huge loss to Caribbean Economics and Caribbean thought on a whole.
“His death is a significant loss because he represents the kind of Caribbean economist who contributed significantly to independent progressive thought. I think it is a breed we do not see much of these days,” he said.
Benn, who recalled having to rely on much of Girvan’s work whilst a student at the University of Guyana, described the professor as an original thinker, whose work is unrivalled by the current generation of academics.
“I do recall as a student of economics at the University of Guyana our professors had a penchant for his writing and we knew, to get the kinds of scores that were desirable, we had to make significant reference to his writing,” Benn noted.
His passing, I think is sad. We do not see these days, a lot of original thought coming out of the Caribbean and therefore his death is a monumental loss to all of us.”
Academics across the region have also been commenting on the passing of Girvan. In a statement, Director of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), Professor Brian Meeks, offered his condolences on his passing.
“On behalf of the entire faculty, staff and student body of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, I wish to express the profound sorrow that we feel at the passing of Norman Girvan, Professor Emeritus, the University of the West Indies and first Director of SALISES,” the statement said.
Another regional academic, Dr Tennyson Joseph, head of the Department of Government, Sociology and Social Work at the UWI Cave Hill, said Girvan’s passing has left a huge void in the academic fraternity.
“Obviously, the passing of Girvan would have left a terrible void particularly in the economic fraternity in particular those of who have an interest in the Political Economy, Regional Integration and the University Community on a whole.
“He, in a sense, was a living embodiment of the idea that the Caribbean economy should be theorized, explained originally and would be used a basis for giving advice to government and for determining policy,” Dr Joseph said.
Born in Kingston in 1941, Girvan attended Calabar High School before entering what was then the University College of the West Indies in 1959 to study economics.
Part of a brilliant cadre of students drawn from across the region, including, among many others, Walter Rodney and H Orlando Patterson, the young Girvan left to pursue his doctorate at the London School of Economics, returning thereafter to the Mona Department of Economics, where he served for many years and established himself as one of the leading economists of the region.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)