News Releases

The Caribbean loses a part of its soul: Sir Derek Walcott, 1930-2017

For Release Upon Receipt - March 17, 2017

St. Augustine

The University of the West Indies mourns the passing of Sir Derek Walcott, Nobel Prize-winning poet, playwright, dramatist, artist, critic and cultural and political commentator. He is an Honorary Graduate of The University of the West Indies. Professor Brian Copeland, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the St. Augustine Campus, called him ‘a true Caribbean man, whose ties to Trinidad and Tobago in particular are both familial and collegiate’.

Walcott published his first book of poems at the age of 18 in his native Saint Lucia and staged his first play in 1950. He studied English literature, French, and Latin at the newly established University College of the West Indies in Jamaica – the pre-runner of The University of the West Indies.

Over the next five decades, he would win numerous literary awards and secure an international reputation as a playwright and poet. These included an Obie Award in 1971 for his play, Dream on Monkey Mountain, a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award, a Royal Society of Literature Award, the Queen’s Medal for Poetry, the inaugural OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the 2011 T. S. Eliot Prize for his book of poetry White Egrets and the Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry Lifetime Recognition Award in 2015. King Carl Gustav of Sweden presented him with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992.  His major achievement is considered to be the Homeric epic poem, Omeros (1990). Walcott was Professor of Poetry at the University of Essex from 2010 to 2013 and held teaching positions at Boston, Columbia, Rutgers and Yale.

In 2010, on the occasion of his 80th birthday, The UWI honoured Walcott through a showcase of his art and literature in an academic conference, Interlocking Basins of a Globe, which included an exhibition of the Walcott family’s private collection of his paintings and a performance of Fragments, a play celebrating his literary works. In 2014, he launched the Derek Walcott Theatre Arts Scholarship, awarded annually to a UWI Theatre Arts Student.

On behalf of the St. Augustine Campus, Professor Brian Copeland extended deepest condolences to his family, in particular to his daughters, Professor Elizabeth Hackshaw, Deputy Dean of Graduate Studies and Research and Senior Lecturer, French Modern Languages and Linguistics, and Anna Walcott-Hardy, former Communications Manager and Editor of the STAN magazine.

About The UWI

Since its inception in 1948, The University of the West Indies (The UWI) has evolved from a fledgling college in Jamaica with 33 students to a full-fledged, regional University with well over 40,000 students. Today, the UWI is the largest, most longstanding higher education provider in the Commonwealth Caribbean, with four campuses in Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Open Campus. The UWI has faculty and students from more than 40 countries and collaborative links with 160 universities globally; it offers undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Food & Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science and Technology and Social Sciences. The UWI’s seven priority focal areas are linked closely to the priorities identified by CARICOM and take into account such over-arching areas of concern to the region as environmental issues, health and wellness, gender equity and the critical importance of innovation. Website:

(Please note that the proper name of the university is The University of the West Indies, inclusive of the “The”, hence The UWI.)