Cuttington University Celebrates 129th Anniversary

Some Cuttington alumni and honorees at the university's 129th anniversary celebration

Dedicates 10 departments to 10 visionaries

Cuttington University on Thursday, February 22, celebrated the 129th anniversary of its founding by recognizing the great work that its founders, including Bishop Samuel D. Ferguson, put in place to establish the first private institution of higher learning in Liberia.

It was an occasion that assembled a good number of alumni, faculty, students, and Bong County officials, including the Vice President of Liberia, Jewel Howard Taylor, and the  Superintendent of Bong County, Madam Esther Walker.

Established in Cape Palmas, Maryland County in 1889, Cuttington was named after Robert Fulton Cutting, treasurer of the Episcopal Church USA, who two years earlier donated $5000 for the establishment of a school for children. At the time, it was Bishop Samuel D. Ferguson, the first black bishop of the Episcopal Church and of the Liberian Diocese, who on February 22, 1889, established the Cuttington Collegiate and Divinity School. The school was forced to close down in 1929, due to financial and other reasons, but was re-opened in 1949 during the tenure of the late Bishop Bravid W. Harris as a four-year co-educational Liberal Arts College, and re-named Cuttington College and Divinity School at its new home in Suacoco, Bong County.

Celebrated under the theme, ‘We Are One,’ many, including and former Education Minister Evelyn Kandakai, former University of Liberia President Dr. Emmett A. Dennis, eminent Liberian historian, Dr. D. Elwood Dunn, and Daily Observer Publisher Kenneth Y. Best, remembered the wisdom that has guided the CU for the last 129 years: ‘Sancte et Sapiente,’ a Latin expression which means: “Holy and Wise.”

The major highlight of the festivities was the naming of 10 Cuttington University colleges and departments in honor of many who made outstanding contributions to the institution and set it apart internationally.

The university’s Graduation Hall (also known as the ‘G-Stand’) was named in memory of the late Bishop Samuel D. Ferguson, founder of Cuttington.  The Bishop Ferguson family was represented by Counselor Seward M. Cooper and Dr. Ophelia Inez Cooper, great grandson and great granddaughter, respectively, of Bishop Ferguson.

A cross section of the audience at the Cuttington University 129th anniversary celebration

The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences was named in honor of Drs. John and Judy Gay. Mr. Kenneth Y. Best, representing the couple who said they were now too old to travel, in a carefully worded speech said Dr. John Gay, as dean of academic affairs (1958-60), raised the standard of Cuttington and “made it an even tougher academic institution. He and his wife Judy and Cuttington as a whole impacted not only Liberians but students from many parts of Africa, including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and many in Southern Africa,” Best said. They included Ochieng Adala (Kenya), Kenneth’s classmate who graduated in 1963, Paul Rupia, Class of 1960, Ghisla Mapunda, Ngombale and Kisenge, all from Tanzania, many of whom held prominent government positions on return home.  Ochieng became Kenyan Ambassador to Egypt; while Paul Rupia was a close associate of Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere.

Though he was studying Agriculture at Cuttington, Mr. Best said Providence had decided his fate when in July 1961, Judy asked him to serve as an editor of the Cuttington Review, a literary magazine that featured articles on drama, essays, poems and short stories.

Best noted that he was yet a sophomore in 1961 when the request came. “That’s a senior’s job,” he replied, and was told that the senior who was in charge had returned to Tanzania.

Judy said, “I know you can do it and I am here to guide you.” Best said he accepted the challenge and ran the Review successfully until graduation in 1963.

The Cuttington Review, Mr. Best told his audience, was the first to publish the works, essays and short stories, by Wilton Sankawulo, one of his classmates, who became a prolific writer while yet at Cuttington.  Wilton, who graduated along with Kenneth on December 2, 1963, went on to produce many books of short stories and novels that have been taught in Liberian schools for decades.

Dr. Kandakai (right) and others

In what he described as a confession, Best revealed that “It was the Cuttington Review that ushered me into journalism and landed me in my first professional job in March 1964, spearheaded by none other than President William V. S. Tubman.”

Mr. Kenneth Y. Best, who represented Dr. John and Judy Gray

Mr. Best recommended to CU Administration to revive the Cuttington Review and promised support from the management of the Liberian Observer Corporation, publishers of the Daily Observer, presently under the managing directorship of his son Bai Sama Gwenning Best.  He also urged President Herman Browne to restore to the Cuttington campus theatre and Opera, which were introduced there again by Dr. John Gay, whom Mr. Best described as “nothing short of a genius.”  “With Cuttington’s worldwide connections, Kenneth declared, “we can find the people who help us restore the arts, theatre and opera to Cuttington.”

The three-day celebration began on Thursday, February 22, and it brought fond memories of productive years in which the university graduated many students, from as far away as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Southern Africa.

The College of Allied Health Sciences was name for Reverend Herbert and his wife Marion Donovan, who served as Episcopal missionaries in Liberia 95 years ago.  Representing the Donovans were their grandchildren, Herbert A. Donovan III, Assistant Professor at Rikkyo University, College of Business in Tokyo, Japan, and his sister Mrs. Jane Donovan, a professional engineer.

Rev. Herbert and Marion Donovan arrived in Liberia in 1923; and Marion, a registered nurse, was assigned to the St. Timothy’s Hospital, where she ran the local dispensary and eventually created a program for training Liberian nurses in Cape Mount. Herbert served as Rector of St. George’s Church, also in Cape Mount. He was superintendent of education for the Vai Gola District and executive secretary-treasurer of the Ministry District from 1926-30.

The College of Natural Sciences was named for one of Cuttington’s preeminent graduates, Class of 1961, Dr. Emmet Dennis, former President of the University of Liberia.  Dr. Dennis took his Doctorate in Parasitology from the University of Connecticut.  He served in several high positions at Rutgers University, the state university of New Jersey.  He was also founding Director of the Liberian Institute of Biomedical Research (LIBR), with research and control programs in major tropical diseases.

The Cuttington Botanical Garden was named for Dr. Evelyn Kandakai, also a Cuttington Alumna, a graduate of both the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University’s Teacher’s College.  She  has served in several prominent positions including Minister of Education, R.L., Acting President of Cuttington and Vice President of United Methodist University.

Dr. D. Elwood Dunn

Cuttington named its Department of History and International for Dr. D. Elwood Dunn, Cuttington, Class of 1964.  Dr. Dunn, who took his PhD from The American University in Washington, D.C., is a renowned Liberian scholar, author and university professor.  After serving as Minister of State for Presidential Affairs under President W.R. Tolbert, Elwood traveled to the United States where he served for 31 years teaching Political Science at the University of The South, Sewanee, Tennessee.  He is the co-author of two volumes of the Historical Dictionary of Liberia, and author of several other books, including The History of the Episcopal Diocese of Liberia, one on Liberian Foreign Policy with the United States and his trilogy, three volumes containing all the Annual Messages of Liberian Presidents, from J.J. Roberts, 1848 to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 2011.

Joseph Saye Larkpor Guannu, Ph.D.

Dr. Joseph Saye Guannu was honored by the naming of Cuttington’s Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution for him.  A graduate of Fordham University, where he took his PhD in Political Science, Dr. Guannu has served in many government positions, including Liberian Ambassador to Washington, D.C.  He has taught at Cuttington for many years.

House No. 40 was named for Dr. Christian E. Baker, first Liberian veterinary doctor and first Liberian President of Cuttington (1960), which was then Cuttington College and Divinity School.  His youngest sister, Dr. Yede Baker Dennis, represented the family at the ceremony.  Dr. Dennis is also the wife of Dr. Emmet Dennis, who was also honored.

He represented Charles Gyude Bryant Jr.

The main thoroughfare at Cuttington is currently being paved through the instrumentality of the family of the late former Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), Gyude Bryant.  The thoroughfare was named the Gyude Bryant Thoroughfare.  Representing the Bryant family for the naming on Thursday were Mr. Toni Deline, a cousin, and Mr. Vivian Jones, a nephew of Chairman Bryant.

Another major development at Cuttington on Friday was the visit, during the program, of Vice President, Madam Jewel Howard Taylor, herself a Cuttington alumna.  After listening to a litany of financial woes facing Cuttington, delivered by the head of the Students Council, Clint Layweh, V.P. Taylor donated 8000 gallons of petroleum and US$2,500 to Cuttington.   She pledged to do what she can to have the government meet its financial obligations to CU and to the University of Liberia and other educational institutions.  Her gesture was greeted with tremendous applause and shouting.

Emmanuel Gbedee, representing the Cuttington alumni in the Diaspora, said the organization is in transition and mobilizing Diaspora support to give back to Cuttington University.  He pledged that the Diaspora alumni, concentrated particularly in the USA, is doing all it can to help Cuttington.  They had recently sent a US$25,000 shipment of materials for Cuttington and have plans to do more for the university.

Also, a representative of the students spoke about the university reshaping the destiny of young men and women who travel through the university seeking knowledge. “It is an intellectual and academic mecca for all of us, including other West Africans,” he said. The student representative noted that the school administration should gear itself to meet challenges, including access to the internet and reliable electricity, as their obligation to the university.

In a brief message, President Herman B. Browne reminded the gathering that “We are one,” and said the university must continue to be a pace-setter in the provision of quality education to those who pass through its corridors.  He warned against the threat of sub-standard, presumably higher education institutions in the country.

On Friday evening, the alumni raised US$13,510, which they intend to use as “seed money” to establish an endowment for Cuttington.


  1. 129 years in operation, no internet, no lights, no running water and outdated text books. Only in Africa, when are we going to be part of the 21th century ?

  2. “Cuttington named its Department of History and International for Dr. D. Elwood Dunn, Cuttington, Class of 1964. Dr. Dunn, who took his PhD from The American University in Washington, D.C., is a renowned Liberian scholar, author and university professor”.
    Ok Daily Observer, you do not take degree but rather you earned one.


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