Saturday, 13 September 2014

Prof Alex Kwapong - A Great Ghanaian

The passing away of Professor Alexander Adum Kwapong a little over a month ago signals the gradual phasing out of the first generation of Ghanaian scholars and intellectuals who laid the foundation of university education in Ghana. He dedicated his entire life to public service, most of them in academia. It is fitting and proper that his funeral this weekend reflects this fact.

There was a vigil last night, Friday 12th September at the Forecourt of the Great Hall which is named after him and called the Alexander Adum Kwapong Quadrangle and the burial today Saturday will also be at the same venue with the two-hour viewing starting at 7.30 am. Funeral rites following the burial will also be at the same venue today at the University of Ghana, Legon. The Thanksgiving service will however be at the Ridge Church in Accra tomorrow.

The details of Professor Kwapong’s distinguished life are well known and should serve as an inspiration for the nation. After studying at Achimota College in Ghana, he was awarded a scholarship to continue his studies in Classics at Cambridge University, graduating with first class honours in 1951. He went on to become a lecturer and then full professor at the University of Ghana where he taught Greek, Latin and ancient history. Over time he was appointed to a number of senior posts with the University of Ghana, before becoming that university’s first Ghanaian Vice-Chancellor in 1966.

After serving in that capacity for ten years, Professor Kwapong moved to the United Nations University in Tokyo and took up the post of Vice-Rector for Institutional Planning and Resource Development. According to a tribute by the U.N University, Professor Kwapong “worked closely with the first rector, James H. Hester, to lay the foundations necessary for UNU as both a university and a part of the United Nations system, and to attract funding for the University. Working with UNU’s second rector, Dr. Soedjatmoko, he was instrumental in the establishment of the first UNU institute — the UNU World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) — and the first institute established in Africa — the UNU Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA), based in Accra, Ghana”.

 After leaving UNU, he was a Professor of International Development at Dalhousie University in Canada and the Director of Africa Programmes for the Commonwealth of Learning. He was awarded the 1981 Simba Prize for Scholarly Essays (Rome) and is the author of many articles in scholarly journals. Professor Kwapong  served on numerous boards, including the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies and the International Council for Educational Development, the Association of African Universities, the Association of Commonwealth Universities (President, 1971), the International Association of Universities, and the International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies (Vice-President) and was Chairman of the Education Review Committee of Ghana.

 Retiring from academic work did not mean the end of his public service. He became the chairman of the Council of State from 2001 to 2005 where he played his role as one of the government’s principal advisors. In an interview looking back on his achievements Dr. Kwapong remarked that, “the minimum qualification to be a good leader is not intellectual capacity but the capability to work with people, the modesty to understand one’s own limitations and to do one’s homework”.


The nation has lost a great Ghanaian.