The University of Liberia (UL) administration has announced that Prince Sumo Tolbert, I, who was recently appointed as the associate vice president for Enrollment Services, has died.
Mr. Tolbert, according to a release, died on Saturday, March 18, at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital following a period of illness.
The news of Mr. Tolbert’s death was announced to the UL family by Dr. Ophelia I. Weeks, vice president for academic affairs.
In a short message to the university, Dr. Weeks wrote: “Dear UL family, it is with great sorrow and sadness that I inform you of the death of Mr. Tolbert. He died this morning at the JFK Memorial Hospital. His death has left us all stunned! Please keep his family in your prayers; and may his soul rest in peace.”
The message sent immediate shockwaves across the corridors of the university and elsewhere, with many paying tribute to Tolbert, including former students.
As expected, UL president Dr. Emmet A. Dennis, who appointed Mr. Tolbert to the position, was the first to express sympathy and remember his death.
“Let us all come together and express our deepest sympathy to his family,” Dr. Dennis said, adding, “When something like this happens to a young, brilliant, friendly and progressive individual, it breeds the deepest kind of grief there is; and this is that which the UL Community should reflect.”
Dr. William Allen, Dean of Liberia College, also paid tribute to Mr. Tolbert, underscoring how Tolbert’s death was certainly a serious loss to his family and the UL, especially to Weeks, who together with Mr. Tolbert had put together a plan to reform the Office of Enrollment Services (OES).
“The positive impact that VP Tolbert made during his brief tenure in OES is proof of his unique qualification. His loss must be particularly hard for you who worked closely with him as Dean of the Science College and as VPAA,” Dr. Allen wrote. “On behalf of myself and Liberia College, I extend heartfelt sympathy to you and the university family for his sudden death.”
In 2014, Dr. Weeks recommended Mr. Tolbert for appointment to the position of chair for the Department of Mathematics, saying, “Mr. Tolbert has the requisite credentials for the position. As well, his expressed vision and strong commitment to the responsibilities add value to his credentials.”
Mr. Tolbert graduated from the UL on May 28, 2003 with a B.Sc. in Mathematics. He served as a part-time faculty in 2005 and was granted full-time status in the Mathematics Department in 2006.
In January 2012, he was awarded a study leave to attain an MSc Degree in Mathematics Education at Makerere University in Uganda, becoming one of 66 faculty members who were sent abroad by Dr. Dennis for advanced studies. He successfully completed his studies and returned to Liberia in November 2013.
As news of Mr. Tolbert’s death hit home on late Saturday evening, many, including his former students, rushed to his Facebook page to express shock and pay tribute.
D. Nelson Tweh posted on Mr. Tolbert’s wall, saying: “Death again!!!!! RIP Prince Tolbert, an academician, mathematician and a person, who contributed to my mathematical intuition!!!!”
A former student, G. Presley P. Wagee Jr., remembered the late Tolbert as “one of the greatest branches from the tree of Mathematics in Liberia has fallen, rest in peace.”
But for Justin Curtis, a one-liner summed it up for him: “What a brain and a humble character.”
Mr. Tolbert fell ill on March 15 and died on March 18, 2017 at 4 a.m. He will be buried on March 30, 2017.