There are heroes of Liberia we should never forget. Dr. Emmet A. Dennis is one of them!
As President of the Republic of Liberia and Visitor of the University of Liberia (UL), it was my responsibility to determine the university’s next president. This would be a decision on who would take our highest of learning, the second oldest in West Africa, to the next level. The decision was being made for a post-conflict university that was full of challenges. All roads led to Dr. Dennis. Here was a man who knew Liberia, loved Liberia, and was an academic through and through. He was a research scientist (an important qualification, because good scientists, and he was one rely on data and evidence. Both are important tools to defend assertions and actions.
But he decided to leave his comfort zone first, at Rutgers in the USA, and spend a sabbatical leave in Liberia at the University of Liberia to get a feel for the lay of the land, having been away for decades… he wanted to learn a little more about navigating the terrain in Liberia and he wanted to know what he was getting into. He was a man who had helped establish Liberia’s first biomedical research institute and had served as its Founding Director in 1975. Later, he would be a strong advocate for the National Public Health Institute (NPHIL), which was created during the post-Ebola pandemic. He also became one of NPHIL’s inaugural Board members.
And so it was that in 2006, as President of the Republic of Liberia and Visitor of the University of Liberia, I made my decision. It was my utmost pleasure to name Professor Dr. Emmet Adolphus Dennis as the 13th President of the University of Liberia. He was indefatigable, internationally respected, an eminent professor, scientist, and scholar who had a deep commitment to higher education, who also had a wonderful sense of humor; a Liberian who had maintained a distinguished and illustrious career in the United States of America.
He had fostered and promoted a Student-Centered University. Dr. Dennis’ Student-Centered University meant faculty and staff development, which produced more qualified faculty and staff. It meant stronger administration. It meant better and expanded student services, shorter time to graduation, and increased student enrollment.
Dennis was committed to Liberia and the scientific development of younger Liberians. So, it is not surprising that Cuttington University, his undergraduate alma mater, named its Natural Sciences College in his honor, LIBR named its laboratory building in his honor and the annual National Scientific Conference. Dr. Dennis worked tirelessly for the betterment of Liberia and beyond, and his impact continues to be exceptionally far-reaching.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Founder & Chair