Veteran pannist Len “Boogsie” Sharpe and storyteller Paul Keens-Douglas added yet another accomplishment to their names yesterday as the duo received honorary doctorates from the University of the West Indies.
During the virtual graduation ceremony, public Orator Professor Christine Carrington highlighted why these men received the honour for their respected fields.
Sharpe was awarded the Honorary Doctor of Letters for steelpan composition, arrangement and performance.
Carrington described Sharpe, who started his steelband in 1972 Phase II Pan Groove, as someone people from all over recognised for his craft.
“He has amazed audiences on every continent and each Carnival season, aficionados from across the globe make the pilgrimage to his panyard to experience first-hand the miracle of his genius,” she said.
She told the story about how the cultural icon’s talent was identified by his parents from birth.
“His mother Grace claimed that his nickname came when she held him up to get a view of Symphonettes practising, she ‘felt an angel pass’ and the angel said “Boogsie,” she told the graduating class.
And how even with obstacles he persevered and today has arranged for at least 30 other steel bands across Trinidad and Tobago.
“Much to the distress of his cousin Rupert “Shadow” Nathaniel, leader of Symphonettes, baby Boogsie couldn’t be kept away. Boogsie would crawl into the panyard and attempt to tune the pans…undoing all the work Rupert had done the day before. Left to him, Boogsie’s career might have ended right there,” she said.
Chancellor Robert Bermudez then virtually presented Sharpe with his Honorary Doctorate which was followed by a performance by the veteran pannist.
Poet and storyteller Paul Keens-Douglas also received Honorary Doctor of Letters for his contributions to Culture and the Arts.
Described as one of the most talented and beloved poets and storytellers in the region, Keens-Douglas, in his performance, narrated how he followed his dreams even without his parent’s approval.
“One thing I can tell you to be a success in anything you do you must love it, you must have a passion for it,” he said.
The storyteller said when growing up parents did not support their children becoming comedians or comics but instead lawyers and doctors.
“Anything with “er” is alright so I became to storyteller and here I am,” he said.
“No mother wanted to introduce her son like this, meet my son the clown,” he added.
Born in Trinidad to Grenadian parents but spent most of his early life in Grenada Keens-Douglas was described as a quiet child but fell in love with the stage from an early age.
In the 70’s he started completed two years of graduate study at Mona before transferring to our St. Augustine Campus, but in 1975 the storyteller tried his hand in writing dialect with Tanti at the Oval. His career took off and he never finished the degree.
But fast forward to 45 years later Keens-Douglas received an honorary doctorate from the same university.
For his graduation performance, the storyteller said through his years of work, communication is one of the regions biggest problems but two things brought kept the Caribbean together, the UWI and the Windies cricket team. His poem was titled, Master Batsman.
Yesterday was the graduation for Faculty of Medical Sciences and was the final ceremony of the 2020 class.