While Wangari Maathai is renowned as Kenya’s first female professor, having attained associate professorship in 1977, Leah Marangu bears the distinction of being the first woman in East Africa to be named a full professor.
Leah Marangu is also the first Kenyan woman to serve at the helm of a university, following her appointment in 1996 as the Vice Chancellor of Africa Nazarene University (ANU), a position she holds to date.
Prof Marangu received her MSc in Family Environment (1969) and PhD in Home Economics (1975) from Iowa State University. She went on to teach in several universities in the United States as a visiting professor and then returned to Kenya in 1977.
She taught Home Economics at Kenyatta University (KU), rising to become the head of the Department of Home Economics in 1988, which is also the year she was appointed a full professor. The following year, she won a Fulbright Scholarship which saw her return to the US as a visiting international professor until 1995.
In the course of her teaching career, Prof Leah Marangu has built a wealth of research expertise on women’s health, the role of women in food production, and science education for the girl child.
Through links with her alma mater, Prof Marangu has enabled several of her female students at KU to pursue higher degrees at Iowa State University, the most notable of whom is undoubtedly Prof Olive Mugenda, the current vice chancellor of KU. Talk about coming full circle!
More about Olive Mugenda in the next post. But suffice it to say here that through this one example, Prof Leah Marangu has laid a strong foundation for a lasting legacy of provision of quality higher education to Kenyans, and especially Kenyan women. This also lends credence to the saying “Educate a man and you educate an individual. Educate a woman and you educate a nation.”
Prof Marangu has received several awards in recognition of her efforts to improve the quality of education in Kenya. In 2001, she received the Iowa State University Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest alumni award, in honour of her pacesetting achievements in the field of education.
Today’s Standard newspaper quotes Prof Marangu speaking at ANU’s 11th graduation ceremony held last week: “Time has come for us in Africa to invest in a different type of education, Christ-centred education that produces individuals who are committed to servant leadership. At Africa Nazarene University, we are on the journey to transform Africa to economic prosperity.”
With a vision like that, one can only look forward to a future marked by yet more great achievements by Prof Leah Marangu and her students at ANU.
More grease to your elbow, Prof Marangu!