Photo Credit: UWI
Professor Selwyn Ryan passed away on Saturday, March 12, at 86. Ryan was one of Trinidad and Tobago’s leading writers, researchers, and political scientists. He was born in Princes Town to a lower-middle-class Afro-Trinidadian family. His mother made sure Ryan pursued higher education. Ryan was also motivated by Trinidad and Tobago, Prime Minister, Hon. Eric Williams known as the “Father of the Nation” to elevate his education. Ryan attended many of Williams’ addresses. In 2009, Ryan wrote a book about Williams titled Eric Williams: The Myth and the Man. His dissertation, The Transition to Nationhood in Trinidad and Tobago, also concentrated mainly on Eric Williams.
Education and Work
He acquired a BA (Hons.) degree in History from the University of Toronto in 1960 and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Cornell University in 1966. Ryan instructed at York University in Canada, the University of Ghana, and Makerere University in Uganda. In 1973, he took a position at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, where he remained until his retirement in 2003.
Ryan composed more than twenty books, including Race and Nationalism in Trinidad and Tobago and Ryan Recalls – Selwyn Ryan: His Memoirs. The latter incorporated reflections on his life from childhood, excerpts from his writings, particularly his newspaper columns, reviews of his books, and many photos illustrating his professional, social, and personal life. He was known as a regular newspaper columnist. Many of his scholarly publications began as columns in the Trinidad Express. He began writing for the Trinidad Guardian in 1972 and switched to the Express in April 1976, where he wrote a weekly column in the Sunday Express for 41 years.
The University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine, paid tribute to Professor Selwyn Ryan, 86, following news of his passing. In a press release, originally appearing in Trinidad & Tobago Newsday, the University remembered the late political scientist, lecturer, and director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research, UWI St Augustine campus, for his passion for Caribbean development.
Pro vice-chancellor and St Augustine campus principal Brian Copeland reflected on Ryan’s passionate wish at his last book launch that younger academics pick up where he left off and continue writing and recording the History of Trinidad & Tobago.
Copeland said, “We can pay no greater tribute to a man who has done so much for the country and region than fulfilling his most earnest desire. Students and graduates of The UWI will continue – as succeeding generations have done for the last 75 years – to advance learning, create knowledge, and foster innovation for the positive and sustainable transformation of this region and, indeed, the wider world.”
A giant of Caribbean political science, his passing is, without doubt, a significant national loss. Historian Bridget Brereton described Ryan as “the author of record for the nation’s modern political history” and the person who had done the most to “help the nation learn about its modern history.” Sociologist Anthony Maingot described Ryan as “the most prolific and influential intellectual in post-colonial Trinidad.” Caribbean American Weekly offers condolences to the family, friends, and supporters of the late Selwyn Ryan, a true Caribbean star.