Two Great Leaders, One Strathmore
“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant”. – Max DePree
Thursday 30th March marked a truly momentous occasion in the history of Strathmore University. After 20 years of being Vice Chancellor, Professor John Odhiambo handed over the reins of responsibility to Dr. Vincent Ogutu, the second Vice Chancellor of Strathmore University. The ceremony was tinged with gratitude for the past 20 years and anticipatory welcome for a new chapter in the university’s story. While we said asante to Prof. Odhiambo, we also said karibu to the new VC.
Starting bright and early with a Thanksgiving Mass, the day carried the air of the occasion for which we were all gathered. All full time faculty members were dressed in academic regalia, and the installation ceremony began with a long procession that ushered in both the outgoing and the incoming Vice Chancellors. For his final time, Prof. Odhiambo constituted the congregation. As most handover ceremonies do, it began with a walk down memory lane, to the past 20 years under Prof. Odhiambo’s leadership. The historical account was written by Professor Emeritus David Sperling, the one most equipped to do it, having walked the path with Prof. Odhiambo.
In the late 1990s, the idea of Strathmore College becoming a university was quite advanced and in 2001, as soon as Strathmore enrolled its first undergraduate students in collaboration with JKUA, the search was on for the VC of Strathmore. By 2002, as it was imminent that Strathmore was to be awarded an Interim Letter of Authority to operate as a university, after an elaborate search process, Prof. John Odhiambo was appointed the new VC.
For him, this appointment was many years into a fruitful academic career. Professor Odhiambo began his academic career in the mid-1970s when after graduating with a mathematics degree from the University of Nairobi, he joined the teaching profession as a junior lecturer while undertaking his master’s degree. In 1981, he enrolled for his PhD studies at the same university under the supervision of the great mathematician- Prof Patel. By 1987, having graduated with his doctorate he was deeply involved in teaching and supervision of both PhD and master’s students. In October 1989, he was appointed as an Associate Professor of Statistics and in June 1998, he became a full Professor of Statistics. While at the University of Nairobi in the mid-1990s as the chairman of the mathematics department, he developed the first Actuarial science undergraduate curriculum that has been replicated across the region.
“I saw in the horizon, a great university, and the promise of all it can deliver to serve society. I knew immediately that this is what I wanted to do. With clear conviction, but also a little anxiety and trepidation, I repeated the words “here I am Lord; You have called me” many times in my heart.” – Prof. Odhiambo.
During his handover speech, Prof. Odhiambo gave us a first-hand insight into his journey over the last 20 years growing along with the University. He spoke with clear passion on the achievements of the institution; “Our ability to deliver excellence in education… Our ability to deliver excellence in research and innovation… Our commitment to serve the interests of society …. Our commitment to be a people centered university… and our commitment to forge impact-driven partnerships in education and research remain crucial for our institutional success today.”
He went on to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of those he had worked with over the years and called on them to support the new Vice Chancellor as he begins his own journey. A journey Prof. Odhiambo said, Dr. Ogutu is ready to undertake.
“I am extremely proud and honored to have been a small part of SU’s compelling story”. – Prof. John Odhiambo.
Passing the Baton
At the start of the ceremony, up until this point, Dr. Ogutu stood out from the rest of his academic peers as the only one not in academic robes. No, his robes were not at the dry cleaners – joked the MC – it was a part of the installation ceremony. And indeed, when the time came Dr. Ogutu stood up and with the assistance of the University Secretary and the SBS Executive Dean, wore his robes in anticipation of the handover ceremony. Prof. Odhiambo then, symbolically, put the cap of the Vice Chancellor on Dr. Ogutu’s head.
The installation of a new Vice Chancellor is marked by the ceremonious handing over of power through various symbols that are at the core of the university’s identity. For Strathmore University, the instruments handed over were representative of our mission, vision and core values. They were also a representation of the power vested in the Vice Chancellor. These included; The University Mace, The University Crest, The University Seal, The Statutes and The University Charter.
In the final act of handover, each of these items was handed to Dr. Ogutu as a symbolic transition of power.
To mark the occasion, the Pro Chancellor of the University, Rev. Dr. Silvano Ochuodho, read a missive from the University’s Chancellor, Monsignor Fernando Ocáriz Braña;
Dear Vincent: may Jesus watch over all of you at Strathmore for me! I write to you on the occasion of your appointment as rector of the University.
With my most heartfelt prayer for your new academic responsibility, I join you in thanking the Lord for the fruit he has bestowed on your work during these years. Although I will not be able to be with you physically on that day, I will be accompanying the ceremony with my supplication for the whole university community.
Thank you for your dedication and pray for all of you who make possible the functioning and growth of this institution promoted by Saint Josemaría, knowing that by prayer we overcome physical distance. I send my most affectionate blessing to all the professors, students, and staff, and to your families.
“Strathmore University has always been a beacon of excellence in the academic community, and we believe that our new Vice Chancellor is well-equipped to continue that legacy”. – Rev. Dr. Silvano Ochuodho
With pomp, confetti and a thunderous standing ovation, we officially welcomed the second Vice Chancellor of Strathmore University, Dr. Vincent Ogutu.
Giving his first speech as Vice Chancellor, he said, “The position of a VC is a great responsibility; I feel it. But as I was reassured by Dr. Olga Marlin, one of the founders of Kianda Foundation, I need not worry for I have the support of my brothers and sisters”. Leadership, to him, is a form of servitude – and not the easy one. A small sacrifice in the face of such a big responsibility. He believes strongly in the ‘Grace of State’ as coined by the founder of Strathmore.
“How can we boldly step into the future and still be rooted and anchored in our values? Let us live by our motto; Ut omnes unum sint! That all may be one. If we all work together, we will succeed!” – Dr. Ogutu.
For the first time of many more to come, Dr. Ogutu dissolved the congregation.
The entire Strathmore fraternity says, in the words of Prof. Odhiambo, Karibu Bwana Vice Chancellor!
This article was written by Celia Kinuthia.
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