04 August 2011

Gene Emanuel, Virgin Islands scholar, Pan Africanist and culture bearer, joins the ancestors

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    Office of the Governor
    Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands

    Governor John P. de Jongh Saddened by Loss of Gene Emanuel

    Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. extended his deepest condolences today to the family and students of University of the Virgin Islands Professor Gene Emanuel, an educator and scholar who challenged his students by asking them to challenge conventional thinking.

    “In the death of Gene Emanuel, the Virgin Islands has lost an outstanding professor and a man who has been credited with representing the cultural consciousness of the University of the Virgin Islands where he served as a faculty member since 1981. He was most recently the Associate Professor of Humanities at UVI.

    Professor Emanuel's research and academic studies greatly illuminated our territory's cultural identity and the proud legacy of Caribbean peoples as a whole. He brought the same energy devoted to his research into the classroom, where his charismatic style and deep reservoir of knowledge lit an intellectual fire in thousands of UVI students over the years, inspiring them to learn through great literature about the experiences of the African peoples in diaspora, de Jongh added.

    “For three decades, Professor Emanuel guided the intellectual development of our territory's finest young scholars, helping them discover their voice, their passion for learning and their awareness of the great issues we face as a people,” de Jongh said, adding, Professor Emanuel's expertise and vast knowledge in his field was recognized when he was selected as a delegate to the African Union's African Diaspora Technical Committee of Experts earlier this year in Pretoria, South Africa.

    “To know Professor Emanuel was to know his untiring passion for Afro-Caribbean history and culture. Not only was he an outstanding and sought-after professor, he was a mentor to many who sought a higher education at the University of the Virgin Islands. For many years, Professor Emanuel attempted to increase the public’s awareness of the role of UVI in the community through his weekly radio program on WSTA Radio. “Up to last Saturday afternoon, Professor Emanuel spoke of the University and its many programs and course offerings on the radio show. His voice was always one of depth and wisdom, he was truly an advocate for UVI and his numerous contributions will be sorely missed,” de Jongh said.

    “My wife, Cecile and I were saddened to learn of Professor Emanuel's passing, but we take solace in knowing that he lives on in generations of Virgin Islanders who were inspired by his teachings and touched by his generosity of spirit,” de Jongh said.


    Message from David Hall, President of the University of the Virgin Islands
    Karl S. Wright, Provost, University of the Virgin Islands

    on the passing of Professor Gene Emanuel

    The University community is saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Mr. Gene Emanuel, Associate Professor of English. Across both campuses throughout the day today, members of the University community remembered Professor Emanuel, and spoke of the loss to the University community of this native son, who touched the lives of so many, both within and outside the University and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    An esteemed member of the UVI faculty since 1981, the iconic Prof. Emanuel was an important force not only on the campus, but throughout the community. He hosted a weekly radio show, “On Air University” and directed the VI Folk Life Festival in 1991. Prof. Emanuel was also the inspirational force in the formation of the Debate Society in 2005 and chaired the Young Men United Organization at the University.

    For his stellar contributions, Mr. Emanuel received numerous recognitions and honors, from such organizations as the Phi Beta Lambda Business and Professional Society in 1994; the Virgin Voice publication in 2006; and UVI’s chapter of the Golden Key Honour Society in March, 2011.

    A gifted and caring teacher, Prof. Emanuel was beloved by his students for his knowledge and his passion. To his peers on the faculty, he was a colleague whose intellect and scholarship were widely acknowledged.

    The Administration will advise the University Family in the near future of plans to recognize and celebrate the magnificent contributions Prof. Emanuel made to this historic institution.

    Prof. Emanuel joined the UVI faculty in 1981, when the University was still the College of the Virgin Islands (CVI). Throughout his career, Prof. Emanuel stressed that learning involves more than acquiescing to the status quo – that the consciousness of students must actually be raised. An avid Pan-Africanist, Prof. Emanuel’s passion for Afro-Caribbean history and culture was always evident.

    He was one of almost 100 delegates of the African Union’s (AU) African Diaspora Technical Committee of Experts to gather this past February in Pretoria, South Africa. The delegates set out to create a roadmap for the African Diaspora, which includes defining the Diaspora, organizing it through regular AU Diaspora Conferences and developing a program of action.

    “The University of the Virgin Islands is not the same place today as it was yesterday because Professor Gene Emanuel is no longer with us,” President Hall said. “We are saddened by his sudden death, and mourn with his family and this community, which he loved so much and served so well. He represented the cultural consciousness of the University, and we must now work even harder to carry forth his work and preserve his outstanding legacy.”

    A thought-provoking instructor, it was Prof. Emanuel’s charismatic style that engaged UVI students in courses he taught, including the Freshman Development Seminar, World Literature, American Literature, Black American Literature and English courses “Perspectives on Contemporary Issues” and “Conscious Reader.”

    Social Science Professor Dr. Dion Phillips and Prof. Emanuel had been colleagues since the 1980s.
    “He taught a cluster of courses. Because of his classroom charisma, which emboldened him to students, his classes were always in great demand,” Dr. Phillips said.
    Emanuel and retired UVI Humanities Professor Dr. Gilbert Sprauve annually led hikes to the Fortsberg historic site on St. John, where enslaved Africans led a rebellion against a garrison of Danish soldiers in 1733.
    A former faculty representative to the UVI Board of Trustees, Emanuel spearheaded the Intercollegiate Debate Society at UVI and helped to create the curriculum for a Caribbean literature course at UVI. He was so beloved by UVI students that year after year he was selected to be the Commencement marshall. “He’s left indelible memories. The challenge for those who are left behind and the next generation is to carry forth that torch,” Dr. Phillips said.
    “He was an excellent teacher and great mentor,” said UVI student Shawna Ludvig, whose Summer Session II course with Prof. Emanuel ended on July 29. “He became a friend – someone you can talk to, go to, anytime.” Ludvig, who took three Humanities courses with Prof. Emanuel, said she will remember him as someone who always emphasized the brilliance of Caribbean authors. “He always wanted people to know about Caribbean authors, whether they were on other islands or in the Virgin Islands,” she said. “I cried because I had this great mentor and now he is gone.”
    Stanley Jacobs, the bandleader of “Stanley and the 10 Sleepless Nights,” remained Prof. Emanuel’s lifelong friend. The two grew up in the Water Gut area of Christiansted, St. Croix, graduated from Christiansted High School and attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania together. Jacobs said Emanuel’s interest was clear from the start. “He was always interested in the cultural part of the Virgin Islands.”
    “Prof. Emanuel was certainly one of our most beloved professors,” UVI Professor Emerita of History Marilynn Krigger said. “This is a loss for both the University and the Virgin Islands community as a whole.”

    He is survived by his wife Mary and his children.