By William Q. Harmon
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has named Dr. Herman Beseah Browne, president of Cuttington University (CU), as keynote speaker for the 170th Independence Day message. President Sirleaf’s choice of National Orator began with the selection in 2006 of Judge Emma Shannon Walser, followed by child rights advocate Kimmie Weeks in 2007. In 2005, Dr. Browne served as National Flag Day Orator.
The 2017 National Orator is a renowned Episcopalian prelate who, immediately before being named the CU president, served as the Dean of Trinity Cathedral in Monrovia. He assumed the CU presidency after a thorough vetting process by a committee set up by the Episcopal Church in Liberia. CU is the Liberian Episcopal Church’s highest institution of learning.
Dean Browne, who is considered an eloquent preacher, was in April 2010 appointed by Bishop Hart as Dean of Trinity Cathedral, the leading parish of the Episcopal Diocese. He was born in 1965, the fourth unto the union of Mrs. Clavender Railey Browne and the late Archbishop George D. Browne. Having completed St. Patrick’s High School in 1982 and obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theology (Cum Laude) from the CU College in 1986, he was ordained deacon the following year and served as assistant director for Christian education, chaplain to Bromley Mission and curate of Grace Church, Clay Ashland.
He acquired a Bachelor of Divinity (Honors) degree, and was concurrently an associate of Kings College in 1990 from the University of London. Unable to return to Liberia that year, he earned a PhD in Systematic Theology from the University of London in 1994 at the relatively youthful age of 29, becoming the first clergyman from the Episcopal Church of Liberia to earn a terminal degree in Theology.
He lectured for four years at the Simon of Cyrene Theological Institute in London (1991-94), and served simultaneously as curate of the North Lambeth Parish, Kensington in South London. Fr. Browne then became the Dean of the Institute (1994) where he served for another two years, until he was appointed a Research Fellow of Yale University (USA) in 1996. He did not take up this academic post, but chose to accept the Archbishop of Canterbury’s offer for him to serve instead on his personal staff as his Advisor for Ecumenical and Anglican Communion Affairs.
Dr. Browne was chairman of the Liberian Community Organization in the United Kingdom (1995-6). In June 1997, he was a priest in Canterbury Cathedral. After five years, he was promoted to the Archbishop’s Senior Advisor on Anglican Communion Affairs; and made Canon of Canterbury Cathedral.
The first African (or non-westerner) to hold a position of such significance in the British aristocracy, this preferment landed him a permanent entry in 2005 into the International Directory of Who’s Who. He returned home in January 2005.
He has also served as vice president for Academic Affairs, African Methodist Episcopal University (2008- 2010). As an Episcopal cleric, he has served as curate of the Chapel of St. George (2005-2008); Vicar of Grace Church, Clay Ashland Liberia (2008-2010); and Director of Theological Education (2005-). He is currently, chair of the Board of Directors, Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC).
He is married to Trokon Lisa Chea, and they are blessed with two daughters, Hermalisa and Hermalyn, and a son, Herman.
Meanwhile, the 170th Independence Anniversary activities commenced yesterday with the holding of the Golden Image Awards and Dinner, which took place in the Ballroom of the Monrovia City Hall. On Friday, July 21, the Muslim community will host thanksgiving and intercessory prayers at the 72nd Central Mosque, Paynesville, at 12:00 noon. An Investiture Ceremony will take place at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion.
President Sirleaf will dedicate the newly refurbished Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville early Saturday. A kickball and football match is expected to climax the day’s ceremony. There will be a thanksgiving and intercessory service at the Sacred Heart Cathedral on Broad Street on Sunday, July 23.
On Monday, President Sirleaf is expected to dedicate development projects around Montserrado County as has been the tradition of the celebration since 2006. Some of the projects that will be dedicated include the Google Project Link, John F. Kennedy Eye Clinic, and the refurbished National Museum. These will be followed by an Interactive Young Mothers Dialogue in the auditorium of the University of Liberia on Capitol Hill. More development projects will also be dedicated on Tuesday. These include the Pipeline Community Hall and the Bentol Peace Park. Official ceremonies in observance of the Anniversary will take place at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion on Ashmun Street, Monrovia at 11:00 a.m.
Meanwhile, Liberians who have served as National Orators since 2006 include (in descending order) Dr. Dugbeh Nyan (Montserrado, 2016), Charles Minor (Sinoe, 2015), Dr. Elizabeth Russell (Montserrado, 2014), Senator Varney Sherman (Bomi, 2013), Professor Edwood Dunn (Montserrado, 2012). Preceding him were: Madam Garmai Estella Korboi (Lofa, 2011), Rev. Monsignor Dr. Robert G. Tikpor (Nimba, 2010), Paramount Chief Flomo T. Barworor (Bong, 2009), Dr. Sakui Woiba Suo Godoe Malakpa (Margibi, 2008), Mr. Kimmie Weeks (Grand Bassa, 2007), and Judge Emma Shannon Walser (Montserrado, 2006).