Liberia: Cuttington University Alumni Raise US$50K for Its Endowment Fund

Newly elected officers of the Cuttington University Alumni Association-from L-R, Mydea White Simmons, president; Mr. Omilford Saye Nyah Jr., vice president;  Nathaniel D. Leesolee, (class of 2010), secretary general; Thomas Momo, financial secretary; and Princess K. Jones, (class of  2008), chaplain. The officers will serve a three-year term.


…. Half of its US$100K target

Cuttington University Alumni Association (CUAA) envisioned an endowment fund over 25 years ago to support sub-Saharan Africa’s oldest private co-educational, four-year institution.

But the idea never got off the ground until Saturday, when the association, under its new leadership headed by Mydea White Simmons, raised US$50,000 during its installation and dinner dance at the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Ministerial Complex in Congo Town. The organization reached half of its goal of US$100,000.

“This was brought up over 25 years ago, and for 25 years we waited on it,’’ said Benoni Urey, Vice Chair of the University’s Board of Trustees. “It was launched before; we did it at City Hall, but it was never successful.  But what we see here tonight guarantees us that it will be successful.’’

Before Saturday’s launch, Sidi Tunis, a 1989 Cuttington  graduate, now  speaker of the ECOWAS parliament,  donated  US$20K to start the fund. The alumni association donated US$10K. The remaining US$20K was raised from sale of dinner tickets and contributions from individual donors and corporations. The endowment account is open at SIB Liberia Limited.

During her speech, Simmons presented a symbolic check of US$50K to Urey, her predecessor, Sampson Tornolah Varpilah and Advertus Orea Wright, Vice President of Institutional Advancement, who represented Cuttington’s President Dr. Romelle Horton.

The gathering attracted 150 people, mostly graduates and former students of Cuttington and supporters of the institution.

Simmons said she expects the fund to grow to US$1 million in the next 10 years. The fund will support  academic scholarships in science and technology; education, agriculture, and nursing; strengthen faculty capacity in research and teaching; and build modern housing to attract more students on the Suakoko Campus.

She urged Cuttington graduates and friends of the university to make monthly or yearly contributions to the fund.  The alumni association will join forces with the Cuttington University Alumni Association in the Americas (CUAAA) to grow the fund globally, she said.

“We, being the parent body, have taken the responsibility to start it,’’ she said. “We call on all Cuttingtonians and friends of Cuttington to support it and make it grow. We must contribute regularly.’’

 Simmons added that the alumni association  will work with CU’s Presidentto prioritize projects at the Suakoko campus, the junior college in Kakata, Margibi County and the graduate school in Monrovia. She plans to reach out to graduates of the  junior college and the  graduate school to get them involved in the alumni association.

The junior college and graduate school often complain that they are neglected, so the alumni association will make a deliberate effort to support them. Simmons said the alumni association  will undertake one project at each of the three campuses during her three-year tenure.

Under her three-year plan, CUAA has earmarked US$5,000 for a project at the graduate school. Simmons  challenged alumni from the graduate school to match the amount to create a Smart classroom, a much-needed tool in the 21st century to enhance learning through educational technology. The Smart Classroom will be launched in December.

At the junior college, CUAA will donate US$2,500 and reach out to graduates to match or exceed the amount. The organization  will work with the university administration to identify a project.

At the Suakoko campus,  CUAA will launch a campaign to build seven modern housing units, each with four rooms that will  include a bathroom, kitchenette, and closets. Simmons and her children will kick off  the campaign with US$10,000. Simmons estimates that each unit will cost US$29,500.

The project is doable if each Scorpion donates US$100, she said. 

“We are in the 21st century, we  need to change the face and trajectory of Cuttington,’’ Simmons said. “The more of us that are involved, the less we will pay out of our own pocket. We must drive the change together.’’

Simmons challenged students from the 1970s, 1980s, the 1990s and the millennials to build the first four buildings. Each decade has produced over 2,500 alumni. 

“Each one, reach ten; we can do it,’’ she said. 

The remaining three buildings will be built by the three social clubs: Freeman, Mason, and Nader. Simmons showed dinner guests the housing project plan.

Simmons  thanked Tunis and all the donors for their support.

 Tunis was expected to deliver  the keynote address, but canceled because he is part of the ECOWAS team working on the conflict in Niger. He sent a statement which was posted in the souvenir program and read by Maureen Sieh, a 1988 graduate of Cuttington.

 Tunis congratulated the new officers and urged the alumni to support the growth of the university by providing strategic, technical and policy support. He said CUAA has a responsibility to unite all graduates and former students. 

“I wish you well in your future endeavors and pledge my unflinching support to Cuttington University Alumni Association and our dear alma mater,’’ he said. 

In his remarks, Varpilah lauded  Simmons for agreeing to lead the association. He pledged his continued support and thanked her for  continuing some of  the projects that began under his leadership. The initial $10,000  from Tunis was received under Varpilah’s leadership. Simmons will also complete the renovation of the CUAA house on the Suakoko campus.

Speaking on behalf of the CU administration, Wright thanked CUAA  for its continued support.

“You have announced some bold initiatives,’’ he said. “We stand with you. We pray that the almighty God who has given you the boldness will make sure the work of your hands prosper.’’

Tillman Collins, who represented Massa Morgan, president of the CUAAA, promised to  share the association’s plans during the chapter’s reunion planned for Aug. 18-20, 2023, in Silver Spring, Maryland. Collins and Mr. and Mrs. Victor Nagbe each donated US$500 toward the endowment. 

 “The global alumni association of Cuttington will support the cause here, ’Collins said. “We are going to emphasize the project-driven presentation that you have made here tonight, so we can be a part of it.’’

Also speaking was D. Sheba Brown, representing the Episcopal Diocese of Liberia.

“We are elated by this transformational change,’’ said Brown, who has served on the university’s board of trustees for 18 years. “You have seen the vision that (Simmons) has. We solicit the cooperation of everyone  to make the dream become a reality, so we can enhance and improve our noble institution.’’

Other members of the alumni leadership team includes  Mr. Omilford Saye Nyah Jr. (Class of 2008), vice president; Vivien Charles Jones, (class of 1983), treasurer; Nathaniel D. Leesolee, (class of 2010), secretary general; Thomas Momo, (2008), financial secretary; and Princess K. Jones, (class of  2008), chaplain. The officers will serve a three-year term.