Lorna Goodison, a former University English professor, was honored for her literary work Wednesday evening in a ceremony at Stamps Auditorium.
Goodison, a former Afroamerican and African Studies professor, received the Shirley Verrett Award for her poetry and short stories. Given to a faculty member whose work encourages the advancement of women of color in the arts, the award was created in 2011 to honor the late Shirley Verrett, a former University professor and renowned opera singer.
The award is sponsored by the University organization Women of Color in the Academy Project.
In response to receiving the award, Goodison said she felt enormously thankful.
“To be associated with the caliber of Shirley Verret is a very wonderful and extraordinary thing,” she said.
During the opening portion of the ceremony, Kinesiology Prof. Rebecca Hasson, a member of the WOCAP, said Verrett had a lasting impact on women of color who are involved in the arts during the opening portion.
Robin Wilson, the 2013 recipient of the Shirley Verrett Award and also a member of the steering committee, presented Goodison with the award. Wilson said the award honors women of color in the arts who are often considered an outlier, and are interested in topics not always valued by the majority of scholars.
“When you look around this campus, when you look things that are named after people, there are no Black people,” she said. “This (award) is something we could create that would have longevity and would signify our presence on this campus. Being a woman of color and in the arts who had a special interest in women who were in the arts and in particular women of color.”
Throughout the ceremony, Goodison was recognized for encouraging and inspiring female faculty and students from diverse backgrounds.
Robert Sellers, vice provost for equity, inclusion and academic affairs, said Verret’s spirit and influence lived on through Goodison’s teaching, performance, scholarship and service.
The award ceremony included a musical performance by Verrett’s former opera students and a poetry reading in tribute to Goodison by University alum Zilka Joseph, one of Goodison’s former students and distinguished poet.
In an interview after the event, Joseph said while she was a student, Goodison was an incredibly welcoming and caring professor.
“(She) was present and so kind and made you feel like home — someone who embraced you,” Joseph said. “We need people like Lorna in an environment which becomes almost like a machine. Sometimes we forget we are just human beings.”