By Joseph Omoremi
It was encomium galore when Provost Ilesanmi Adesida was honored at the Urban-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois, United States where Nigerian-Americans gathered to celebrate his elevation as the first African to head an Ivy League school in the country.
Speakers at the occasion urged him to use the position and knowledge to effect changes in the developing world.
“You’ve served with great integrity and brilliance in all the positions you’ve held in the United States for the past 26 years,” Dr. Abiola Akanbi said while urging him to direct his energy, knowledge and his current unique position to effect dramatic but positive changes in Nigeria and the developing world.
Friends listed Adesida’s trailblazing exploits in the US to include, among other things, assisting Howard University to build its nano-technology center, left indelible foot prints at Cornel University where he taught briefly, opened doors of opportunities for many Africans across America and turned the engineering department at the Urbana Campus of University of Illinois to one of the best in the world.
His arrival at Urbana-Champaign more than 26 years ago turned things around for blacks in the university as Africans foray, once limited to the Department of African Studies, expanded to engineering and other studies including the nano-technology center which he used to launch the university as one of the leading nano-technology learning centers in the world.
“He became a role model for all of us. He made us better teacher and parents and assisted in whatever way he could help us attain greatness in our fields,” said Eyambe Bokamba, a professor of African Studies at the Urbana-Champaign campus.
Dr. Tayo Akinwande, a professor of electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said most people take him to be Adesida because of the things they have in common in many ways which earned him a break because of his trail blazing attainments in electrical engineering and leadership.
Chief Rotimi Ogunmodede, Adesida’s classmate at Imade College, who came for the ceremony from Nigeria, described him as a star right from high school.
Adesida was overwhelmed and speechless as the accolades.poured in. Instead of responding, he walked round the Civic Center, venue of the celebration, and danced with his wife of 35 years, Dr. Patience Adesida.
Professor Adesida beat Ruth Watkins, the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, to become the new provost.
Phyllis Wise, the Chancellor of the Urbana campus and a university vice president, said the school is counting on Adesida’s global experience, expertise in innovation, and leadership in public and private partnerships to move the school to the next level.