President Angel, it is my honor and pleasure to present Dr., Professor, Vice Chancellor Francis Kibuba Lelo, a distinguished Clark alumnus who beyond any possible expectation has exemplified Clark’s motto: Challenge Convention, Change Our World.
Vice Chancellor Lelo, your accomplishments in research, publishing, and teaching have carried you far beyond libraries and archives. You have distinguished yourself in three arenas:
You are an academic leader. You have soared to the ultimate heights in Kenyan higher education: that of vice chancellor of Laikipia University, one of Kenya’s newest universities. The only higher post in Kenyan academia is reserved for the nation’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta.
You are a teacher. Your early years as professor at Egerton University spurred you to develop courses on resources management and the environment. This focus led you to conduct research in villages, where you learned to listen to the people to understand how a university can assist communities to manage their livelihood and resource base in productive and sustainable ways. Listening to the people became a theme that resonates in your work to this day.
You are a practitioner. After earning your Ph.D. in geography at Clark in the early 1990s, you trekked to virtually every part of Kenya and eventually all over Africa to train community-based environmental specialists, work with village leaders, consult with government and non-governmental organizations, and devise ways that communities could solve their own resource-management needs.
Laikipia is home to pastoralists — the Maasai, the Samburu, the Boran — all cultural groups that are among Africa’s richest in owning camels, cattle, sheep, and goats, and among the poorest in terms of income. Already you have formed a University Institute to assist the residents of these arid lands, designing a plan that enables Laikipia students to work in the region’s villages to understand the needs and accomplishments of Kenya’s dryland peoples. You are setting a new style of learning and creating fresh opportunities for the women, men, and youth of Laikipia.
For your past accomplishments, your present vision, and your future promise, Clark University is proud to honor one of its own in your quest to challenge convention and change our world.
Mr. President, on behalf of the trustees, faculty, students, and staff of Clark University, I request that the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, be conferred on Vice Chancellor Francis K. Lelo.