Professor Selwyn Ryan dies at 86

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

GONE TO REST: Professor Selwyn Ryan, seen in this 2018 file photo, died on Sunday at the age of 86.

POLITICAL scientist, writer, pollster and one of this country’s most eminent thinkers, Professor Selwyn Ryan, has died. He was 86.

And as tributes poured in especially on social media, he was remembered also as a consummate professional, a national treasure, a philosopher, and most of all, a friend.

Ryan is said to have died on Saturday night. No cause of death was given and efforts to reach his son Kwame Ryan for a comment proved futile. Ryan lived in Glencoe.

Ryan lived and worked in the US, Canada, and Africa before returning to Trinidad in 1973 to work as a senior lecturer at The UWI.

During his time away, he lectured at York University in Toronto, The University of Ghana in Accra, and Makerere University in Uganda.

He was also director of the UWI’s Institute of Social and Economic Research. In 2012, he was bestowed the Chaconia Medal Gold for his contribution to higher education.

During this career, Ryan is credited with writing 27 books including Black Power in the Caribbean, Race and Nationalism in TT, his seminal work, Eric Williams: The myth and the man, and his memoir, Ryan Recalls – Selwyn Ryan: His Memoirs.

Symon de Nobriga, Communications Minister told Newsday the country was made all the more poorer from Ryan’s passing.

“As a writer, researcher, political scientist and as an academic he will be missed but he will live on in the body of his work and the memories forged with those he impacted throughout his life. My family and I would like to extend condolences to his family, colleagues and loved ones,” de Nobriga said.

UNC Senator Wade Mark said Ryan exposed him to the subject of Discipline of Political Science while he was an undergraduate student at UWI.

“He was an extremely prolific writer, researcher and thinker. He will not only leave his knowledge on the soil of TT but on the Caribbean and as far away as Africa. He was always willing to share his wisdom on politics on this nation. I send my condolences to his family,” Mark said.

Mark said he admired Ryan’s ability to stand by his philosophies and thoughts on political matters. “We had our political disagreements, it is true, but we had deep respect for each other. He was a scientist on his own level.”

Political analyst Dr Winford James said Ryan leaves a strong legacy. “He allowed people to have their own views and perspective once it was supported by the facts,” James said.

Ryan also became well-known through the years for his SARA polls which predicted the outcomes on several local and general elections.

Former UNC MP and Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh said on his Facebook page, “He was truly a national patriot and his great academic and political legacy will redound and impact for generations to come. On a personal level, Selwyn and his beloved wife Jan were my good friends for many, many decades.

“Selwyn and I first met in the early 1980s, when we were both members of the UWI lecturing staff then- he in Social Sciences and I in Medicine.”

Political analyst Bishnu Ragoonath told Newsday that Ryan changed how people viewed analysis on politics in this country.

He recalled discussing Ryan’s ability to influence the outcome of an election through his in-depth and insightful views which were predicated on scientific data.

“A political analyst should strive to be like Prof Ryan, the way he stood for his own independence. He was not swayed by political opinions and called it as he saw it.

“I won’t describe him as a political analyst. Selwyn Ryan was a political scientist as he had a wealth of knowledge, training and background in science and research,” Ragoonath said.