The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) is mourning the loss of David Edgecombe, former executive director of the Reichhold Center for the Arts and retired associate professor of communications who passed away on Nov. 19. During his 30-year career at UVI, Edgecombe inspired countless students in and out of the classroom; celebrated local talent at UVI’s Little Theater and on the Reichhold stage; attracted world-class performers to the Virgin Islands; and entertained audiences around the Caribbean with his original plays.
“Our community is filled with sadness from the loss of Professor Edgecombe, a true artist, passionate teacher, supportive colleague and wonderful human being,” said UVI President Dr. David Hall. “I can’t remember David not smiling. He had a joy in his heart that shined through with every encounter. I miss already that smile and his unreplaceable energy and passion. It is rare to meet and work with someone who never stopped believing in how life and the arts could be better. His work at UVI enriched this University in immeasurable ways. On behalf of the entire University, I express our collective and sincere sympathy to Professor Edgecombe’s family, and to the entire Virgin Islands community. There is now a gaping hole in the cultural ecosystems of the Virgin Islands. May we fill it with our memories, tears and hard work that keeps his legacy alive.”
One of the people who is keeping his legacy alive is the Reichhold Center’s current director, Denise Humphrey. Edgecombe was a professor when Humphrey was a UVI student and later recruited her to be a stage manager at Reichhold. “David was always somebody who wanted to get young people involved in the arts. He had the knack of bringing out the best of people and recognizing their talents,” she said. “When he saw potential in someone, he pushed them to move forward and to be creative.”
Edgecombe was dedicated to developing artists in the territory. He created the popular Starfest talent showcase, the Youth Movie Making Workshop, the Reichhold Center Repertory Company that toured the Caribbean and other programing that not only integrated and developed local talent, but also attracted new audiences to the Reichhold Center. “David helped to dispel the myth that Reichhold Center was for the elite,” said Humprey. He introduced different genres that made Reichhold more accessible to the community.” Starfest ran for 10 years and catapulted several local artist’s careers in the music industry including Rock City, Pressure Busspipe, and Lorna Freeman.
After leaving the University for a short period to work in foreign affairs at Government House under the DeJongh administration, Edgecombe returned to UVI in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences to continue sharing his passion for the arts. As a theater instructor, English professor and playwright, he wrote and directed several plays at UVI’s Little Theater always portraying the Caribbean experience in a novel way. “He brought culture, history and values to life and gave so many students, faculty and community members an opportunity to display and develop their enormous and impressive talents,” said Dr. Hall. “He was passionate about drama and theatre and you could feel it in every play he wrote or directed. His commentary before and after each performance always captured his love for the arts and the particular performance.”
“He was unconventional in some respects and did things his own way,” remembered Mitchell Neaves, UVI vice president for institutional advancement, speaking about Edgecombe’s plays. “It was special. That uniqueness did make a difference to many people.”
Edgecombe was loved and respected by his students, colleagues, friends and fans throughout the Caribbean. Close friend and UVI colleague, Sharlene Harris remarked that Edgecombe was always available and reachable. “He kept in touch with a lot of people by phone. He had reach throughout the Caribbean and through his work always wanted to ensure the USVI and Caribbean were represented. Though he was originally from Monserrat and lived most of his life in the VI, Harris said, “he was more than a Monserratian or a Virgin Islander. He was a man of the entire Caribbean with close contacts throughout.”
His memorial/celebration of life service will be held at the UVI Sports & Fitness Center on St. Thomas on Dec. 11, at 10 a.m. (vaccinated persons only). The service will be livestreamed on YouTube at https://youtube.com/channel/UCGlOalNqJL9Nl8HEqQLkXRA
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