Wilfred D. “Pepe” Samuels

February 7, 1947 – February 3, 2020

It is with great sadness that we share the news of a dear friend and colleague’s passing. Wilfred D. “Pepe” Samuels passed away on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. He would have celebrated his 73rd birthday on Friday.

Samuels came to the University of Utah in 1987 as a visiting associate professor in the Department of English and the Ethnic Studies program. He recently retired from the U after serving as a dedicated community member for 32 years in various roles such as director of the African American Studies Program, coordinator of the Ethnic Studies program and a professor of both English and Ethnic Studies.

“Ron Coleman, the former associate vice president of diversity, always joked that Pepe was his hardest hire to land,” said William Smith, Ethnic Studies professor in the School for Cultural and Social Transformation. “It took him several years to finally get Pepe to commit to bringing his talents to the U, but he retired a gifted intellectual with at least five published books and numerous scholarly articles. He was most known for his excellent research on Olaudah Equiano and Toni Morrison.”

Samuels was born on Feb. 7, 1947 in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. He earned his B.A. degree in English and Black Studies at the University of California, Riverside and went on to earn his M.A. degree in American Studies and African Studies from the University of Iowa, and his Ph.D. in American Studies and African American Studies.

“Pepe will be missed by many because of his warm personality and hospitality,” said Smith. “When I first arrived at the U 21 years ago, he always hosted the Ethnic Studies socials at his house. This event was open to our colleagues and community members and it will always be remembered for its food, fun and festivities.”

“This news is hard to fathom given Pepe’s endless vitality in our midst,” said Kathryn Stockton, Dean of the School for Cultural and Social Transformation. “I have always felt, and said to him, that no one does provocation more lovingly. What a legacy of bravery and beautiful vision.”