Fendell, Montserrado County: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has inducted Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks as the 14th President of the University of Liberia and second female to head the nation's premiere institution of learning. She said she was exceedingly glad to be at yet another very important Convocation to participate in the inaugural ceremony of a President of the University of Liberia. "Nine years ago, I was pleased to inaugurate Dr. Emmet Dennis, a distinguished Liberian scientist and academic of international repute as President of the University of Liberia," the Liberia leader recalled.
According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf was speaking on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 in Fendell outside Monrovia during a special Convocation for the inauguration of Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks. President Sirleaf recalled in 2008, the University was not so famous and for all the wrong reasons in the aftermath of more than 14 years of war. She said the campuses were visible signs of the destruction of physical plants and academic and support units; while the human capital of the University had depleted to the extent that the academic profile dropped to very low ebb.
She said as her administration struggled with corruption in public service, the University displayed shameless descent in human values of civility and integrity. She lamented stories were prevalent with unqualified young people being admitted as students and unscrupulous individuals wearing academicals awarding undeserving grades to students through fraudulent means.
The Liberian leader recounted student riots and faculty protests were frequent and unpredictable amid very low budgetary support. "Yet, Dr. Dennis accepted to take on the unenviable task of uncertainty and multiple challenges, leaving his life of comfortable retirement from a successful and proud career at Rutgers University in the United States to serve his nation, particularly to help mend the war-broken youth of our country and give them hope in the rebirth of our nation," she underscored.
President Sirleaf said Dr. Dennis set off with a clear vision focusing on four pillars: 1. Restoring integrity and civility; 2. Faculty and staff Development; 3. Curricular transformation and restoration of libraries and laboratories; and, 4. Developing an IT infrastructure including digitization of student records. In doing so, the University established external institutional collaborations as a means of complementing the government's support for the development of academic programs and infrastructure.
She noted as sign of government's commitment to making good on its responsibility to the national flagship university, her administration gradually increased budgetary support from $1million when she assumed office in 2006 to a peak of US$14million by FY 2013, a 1400%. President Sirleaf said the government is proud that the FY 17/18 budget is over US$16 million.
While noting that despite other crushing demands, particularly to improve the quality of education at the lower levels, coupled with serious economic downturn and other challenges of the past few years - did not spare the University, but said we are marveled at the progress that has been made as manifested more vividly by the calm, regularity and predictability of campus life among students and among faculty members; and above all, the progress in integrity, civility and academic capacity and growth.
Paying tribute to Dr. Dennis as he passes the baton on, she thanked him and his team of administrative and academic colleagues, the Board of Trustees and the students of this University for this tremendous progress. "Thank you - Professor Weade Kobbah-Wureh and colleagues and others before you who were reliable support to Dr. Dennis. We know that Dr. Weeks who became a part of that diligent group will be accorded the same level of support,: she stressed.
Turning to Dr. Weeks, President Sirleaf said she comes to head this University from an exceptionally rich background of service, science and academia. She challenged Dr. Weeks to be very mindful that there is plenty work still left to be done, and that the comfortable and stable academic life at Florida International University and the United States generally are a far cry from life back home. She called on her that by accepting such challenging duty, she can only say with pride that Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks is truly a strong and brave woman, a real patriot and a bearer of a family tradition of service to this University and to country.
President Sirleaf further recalled that Dr. Weeks grew up on the Capitol Hill Campus -in the famous Richardson Cottage - where her father, Dr. Rocheforte L. Weeks lived and worked, from 1959 to 1971 as the 3rd President and first Liberian President of the University of Liberia. She recognized Dr. Weeks as the first child of a former President of the University to serve in similar position.
In historical correlation, President Sirleaf recounted the fact that Dr. Weeks is taking this mantle as the second woman to rise to this position like her predecessor, Dr. Mary Antoinette Hope Grimes Brown Sherman made history when she was the first woman to be inaugurated as President of this University in 1978, and the first woman to be President/Vice Chancellor/Head of a major institution of higher learning in Africa. She described Dr. Mary Antoinette as a trailblazer, a great woman of courage, knowledge and purpose. "Her origins were of humbled Vai motherhood and a father from background of privileged. Yet she chose academia beginning in 1950 as a teaching staff in the Teachers College, rising to the Presidency that ended in 1984 when she refused to accept the interference of the then military government in the academic life and running of the University," President Sirleaf acknowledged.
She lauded Dr. Mary Antoinette Brown Sherman for giving the younger women in Africa hope that they could break barriers set against women on academic, social, economic and political journeys; reminisced that aside from her brains there was beauty and style in her everyday African attire away from western dress; her greatest legacy at this university is academic freedom, protection of faculty and student rights, protection of the University from government interference and scholarship and quality education. President Sirleaf said some of her products are among the gem today in Liberian and African academic and political leadership while her academic team were also amongst some of the best brains our country had to offer notably patriots including Dr Amos Sawyer, Dr Patrick Sayon, Dr James Teah Tarpeh, Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh, among others.
President Sirleaf also reiterated naming the Fendall Campus of this University in honor of Dr. Mary Antoinette Brown Sherman. She then directed President Weeks to formalize at the earliest. She said from the time that the University of Liberia was chartered by the National Legislature just four years after the founding of our country as the first independent Republic in Africa, and from the time in 1862 when Liberia College opened as the oldest institution of higher learning in West Africa, there have been several leaders - President Joseph Jenkins Roberts, Edward Wilmot Blyden included - whose legacies must inspire you. "But Dr. Weeks, you readily have on hand those of your father, Mary Antoinette and Emmett," she noted.
Earlier, Dr. Weeks expressed appreciation for her preferment and promised to fully implement the letter and spirit of the Charter of the University of Liberia. She however promised to meet the challenges with valor unpretending.
The induction was attended by a cross-section of local and from actors in the academia.