Giving thanks to Norman Girvan (1941-2014)


A post by Peter Jordens.

Jodi-Ann Gilpin of The Jamaica Gleaner reports on the Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Professor Emeritus, Norman P. Girvan, held on May 3 at The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus. See our previous posts Dr. Norman Girvan Dies in Cuba, UN releases statement on Dr. Norman Girvan’s death and Why Norman Girvan matters.

A devoted regionalist and an intellectual apostle were words used to reflect on the life of Professor Norman Girvan during a memorial service at the University Chapel at the University of the West Indies, Mona.

Former Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, in his tribute, spoke of Girvan’s dedication to the development of the region, stressing his intellectual capacity and the high-quality work he did. “Norman understood systems, dynamics and linkages and aided greatly in the development of the economy and policies. He believed in institutional buildings through collaborative efforts and was unique as he moved seamlessly back and forth between academia and practical implementation,” said Patterson. “His work in economics in Jamaica during the latter part of the 1970s, along with his work on the international scale, will long be remembered,” continued Patterson. The former prime minister shared how impressed he was with Girvan’s work in creating a platform for better linkages in the Caribbean. “Among many intellectuals, Girvan stood apart, as his concept of the region extended beyond the ministerial conquest and language. He worked assiduously in creating an environment where corporation was feasible, creating sustainable tourism, transport and the environment,” said Patterson. “His practical work is outstanding and his rigorous and consistent research presented lucid writing, which opened the way for a new historical stage in the Caribbean.”

In reflecting on the life of his father, Alexander Girvan told the gathering how important family life was to the man, whose love for the Caribbean was evident. “While many know him in his international capacity and his exceptional professional accomplishments, we knew him as a family man. At home, he was no professor, but a man who knew the importance of family welfare and one who was devoted to his wife,” said Alexander. “His devotion to the region could not go unnoticed, as I remember him waking me up at four in the morning to watch West Indies (cricket team) tour Australia. He religiously attended regional competitions, whether it’s the J’Ouvert opening of carnival, among many others. My father loved Caribbean culture and used every opportunity to strengthen the development of the region. This is a man whose spirit will forever live with us,” declared Alexander, and it appeared the entire chapel agreed.

The original article is at

HERE is a compilation of the many tributes to Norman Girvan that have appeared online since he passed away on April 9, 2014 and that attest to the widespread admiration for this “quintessential Caribbean man”, “true Caribbean man”, “exemplary Caribbean citizen”, “true Caribbean icon”, “unflinching Caribbean regionalist” and “Caribbean patriot.” Indeed he “promoted the vision of a truly integrated Caribbean – one that encompassed all the English, Spanish, French and Dutch speaking countries of this multifaceted and dynamic region,” as the tribute by the Organization of American States (OAS) affirms.

I met Norman for the first time in the Dominican Republic in 1991, at the third Conference of Caribbean Economists to which he had invited me. It so happened that I saw him for the last time in that same country, at a workshop on Building the Greater Caribbean, in 2010. In the last year of his life, Norman was passionate about opposing ruling Nr.168/13 of the DR’s Constitutional Court, as he had been passionate about so many other causes during his lifetime. A humble man as well as a distinguished personality, he focused his intellect and activism on issues of social justice, people-centered development, and regional integration. It is hoped that those who have been inspired by Norman Girvan will carry his passion forward to the benefit of the people of our region. That, I believe, is the best way to say thanks to this extraordinary Caribbean man.

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