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Strathmore Personalities: Journey of a thousand miles – Dr. Vincent Ogutu


He walked into his office and found three of us already seated, waiting. Even though he knew we were coming, most people would have balked first and gotten flustered after. Not him. He greeted us all with the cheery smile that is the hallmark of his many pictures. He sat down calmly, reached for his tea and stirred in a sachet of sugar as we exchanged pleasantries. Once settled, we launched into what would be a two-hour long conversation with the 2nd Vice Chancellor of Strathmore University. And so he began…

The Journey of a Thousand Miles

“Make all the decisions on where your values lie right at the start, so that you’re ready for the opportunities”.  

Young, athletic and passionate about changing the world, a freshly graduated Vincent Ogutu stepped out of university and into what many term to be ‘real life’. He held in his hands two offer letters (yes, in his hands, this was the early 90’s) from two top organizations in the country. In one hand, an offer from Nation Media that fit so well with his dream to be a journalist. In the other, an offer from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), an international organization that many still would kill to work at. The young graduate was set – that is until he got a call to change the world.

The call came from the then headmaster of Strathmore School, asking him to come teach business studies to young men. Here was an opportunity to have a direct impact on young minds, to help them become changemakers in society – how could he turn it down? So he went to PwC, hat in hand, to, with great gratitude, turn down the offer. The lady he met there, upon hearing his reason for turning down the offer, sought to give him sisterly advice. She asked him to reflect on what it would feel like when his friends, all starting out now, began to make the big bucks and drive expensive cars. Would he regret his decision then?

In that moment, he came to a realization that has stuck with him, and has been proven true with time. “If I have a diamond in my hand, and, knowing how precious a stone it is, I willingly throw it in the trash, and later another guy comes and picks it up and begins to wave it around, showing off this precious stone he has found… Will I feel envious of this gem that I cast away?”  Each person has the path on which they travel, and some of the friends he started out with ended up as CEOs of some of Kenya’s largest companies. That does not, however, elicit feelings of regret in Dr. Ogutu; in fact, they now refer to him affectionately as Mwalimu.

While at Strathmore School, Dr. Ogutu went on to become the Deputy Principal for 10 years, eventually moving to the Business School at Strathmore to help develop and launch the MBA program. At the tail end of his work as the MBA Program Director, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to pursue his PhD in Organizational Management at Rutgers Business School in New Jersey.

One sleepless night later… 

“It’s important to be able to decipher when what you’re hearing is your voice, other’s voices, God’s voice, or the devil’s voice. The litmus test is how at peace you feel when you listen to it.”

Dr. Ogutu came back to Kenya, revved up for research, never having strayed from his purpose of impacting the world. With a freshly minted doctorate in his pocket, he wanted his work to be ‘kwa ground’, interacting with the communities and finding innovative ways to solve their problems. Even now, seated in his office in Central Building, right behind LT 1 & 2, you could picture him out in the field, using his natural charisma and genuine love for people to effect change. A man like that did not want to be tied to administrative work, but once again, an unexpected opportunity came knocking.

This time, it was the role of Deputy Vice Chancellor, Planning and Development. Further up the chain of command, they had seen something in him that would have an immense impact on the University, more than likely the same thing that propelled the decision to make him Vice Chancellor Designate. His immediate answer? No! He knew what he wanted to be doing, and administrative work just wasn’t it. As much conviction as he had, there was more conviction that he was the right man for the job. And so, a month later, they came knocking again. Could he say no twice? He had to think about it – pray on it. And so he did. One sleepless night later, knowing that it was God’s voice guiding him towards this role, he said yes.

We were curious to know how one becomes Vice Chancellor of a university. Well, the University Council puts together a search committee that either head hunts for a Vice Chancellor, or accepts applications. In this case, they went the headhunting route and Dr. Ogutu was identified as one of the candidates. This was a year into his role as DVC, and while you would think a decision like this would elicit multiple sleepless nights, it did not. The voice this time was clear, all he felt in regards to the decision was peace. Not a wink of sleep lost, he stepped up gracefully to assume the role of Vice Chancellor Designate, and spent a few years learning to step into a role which would allow him to effect change at a very high level.

Learning from a Legend

“Prof. Odhiambo has always been my biggest encourager, pushing me to continue with my academic work, even as I stepped into an administrative role. When my first publication was sent to me, before I read it, before I even opened it, I took it straight to Prof. He took it out of the packaging – he was the first person to ever see it.”



Coming into a role as daunting as Vice Chancellor, Dr Ogutu was grateful to be learning from mentor and friend. The first Vice Chancellor of Strathmore University, the only one it had ever known, is and always has been a force to be reckoned with. His fountain of wisdom knows no end, and steady as a river, he has guided the University from milestone to milestone. Mathematician, teacher, researcher and leader, Professor John Odhiambo took on the task of passing on the baton. In fact, right before our interview with Dr. Ogutu, he had come from a meeting with Prof. Odhiambo, an occasion he says always warrants a notebook to jot down the nuggets of wisdom that will always be inevitably dropped.

This recollection, as told by Dr. Ogutu, perfectly highlights his relationship with Prof. Odhiambo. The teacher and the student, the mentor and the mentee, the apprentice turned peer. In his time as Vice Chancellor Designate, Dr. Ogutu got to observe Prof. Odhiambo in his role as a leader. He says there are some things that stood out for him, things that he hopes to emulate during his tenure;

‘Know the limits of your power; rely on the wisdom of the statutes and use them as your guiding star’.

From Prof. Odhiambo, Dr. Ogutu has come to learn how one can leverage the power of law to strengthen their leadership. Despite being a mathematician, Prof. Odhiambo has a strong legal mind and has always referred to the statutes, trusting them to help him navigate his role and guide his team.

A seemingly quiet man, he is strong willed and immovable on matters of academic integrity. “One of the many things to be admired about Prof is his unwavering commitment to quality education, it’s not something he is willing to soften his stance on.” This commitment has shone through in his leadership, and in the leaps and bounds the University has made during his tenure; from two undergraduate courses to 18, 19 masters and a number of PhD programs. If you’ve ever spent enough time with Prof., he likely asked you if you plan to take on graduate studies or how your research project is going.

He now gratefully steps back from his role as Vice Chancellor, leaving Dr. Ogutu with these words of wisdom; “To care for people and help others to care for each other. If we can succeed in having our people care for each other, then we are okay”.

At the Service of the Institution

“The values of Strathmore University are a direct answer to many of society’s problems. Our goal now is to increase the touch points and efficiency of interaction such that anyone who comes into contact with the University will find themselves changed, inspired and transformed.”


During the 2022 graduation ceremony, Dr. Ogutu was officially announced as the 2nd Vice Chancellor of Strathmore University. The seamless transition of power now comes to a close with the installation ceremony on Thursday 30th March. He comes into the role with his passion to make a difference in the world, the wise words of those who have come before him, and a clear vision for the future.

Leadership, to him, is a form of servitude – and not the easy one. “Suddenly, you’re not just you, you have to put yourself at the service of the institution to allow you to have so much impact at such a high level.” He jokingly says that as the face of the University, he is no longer allowed to arrive at a meeting on a nduthi, no matter how late he is running! A small sacrifice in the face of such a big responsibility. As a leader, the buck stops with you, and he counsels that if you don’t like making decisions, leadership is not for you, because really what it is, is making many decisions on complex issues. While you can make mistakes, the responsibility falls on you. He says, however, that he believes strongly in the ‘Grace of State’ as coined by the founder of Strathmore.

His vision for Strathmore

His vision for Strathmore reflects quite strongly on his own personal nature. During his time as Vice Chancellor, he would like to blend the traditions that the institution is built so strongly upon, with cutting edge innovation that will keep it at the forefront of research. How? Well, to begin with, through inspirational leaders who share a deep understanding of the culture and lead through exemplary influence. With that in mind, if each leader and indeed each individual put themselves at the service of one area and dedicated themselves to research that is solving problems, we will all, collectively, bring the University into an innovative and sustainable future.

For Dr. Ogutu, a true people’s person, perhaps the strength of his leadership lies in his belief of the uniqueness of each person, and in his ability to draw them out of their shell. He sees the talent that each person carries within them, and connects with them to try and nurture that talent and bring out the best in every individual.

When he’s not wearing the hat of a VC, he will most likely be found running to raise money for a good cause, or learning to play the saxophone. Perhaps, one day, when he retires from the role, he will be Vincent Ogutu, reporting live from a scorching hot desert, or freezing cold mountain peak… Until then, he will be gracefully, and ever – smilingly, the 2nd Vice Chancellor of Strathmore University.


This article was written by Celia Kinuthia.



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