National | Opinion

Kwesi Yankah: Indiana Celebrates Quincy

Quincy, not Kwesi, was my name at Indiana University over 40 years ago. No questions asked about how the Sunday born ‘Yankah’ exchanged his Kwesi for Quincy. But that was Ghana at Indiana 1980. Last Monday, Indiana woke me up reminding me of footprints I left behind which successive I U Presidents have come to experience as an integral part of Indiana’s heritage.

I was 30 when I stepped at Indiana in search of a Ph.D, haunted on my first day, by a nightmare from New York JFK to LaGuardia airport. As a Johnny-just-come-to-USA, I was swindled by a taxi driver and his colleague, who told me with clenched teeth, the ride cost $350, and should be paid in my own interest. Ripped off, I arrived at Bloomington my destination in tears and spent my first two weeks at the University living off the benevolence of a Ghanaian community led by Kofi Anyidoho; these supported me until I was remitted by my sponsors. Five and half years later I exited Indiana smiling. The city Bloomington had wiped my tears. The good news came with a bang, soon after returning to Ghana. IU had selected the weeping boy’s doctoral work as Dissertation of the Year 1985! The first by an African!! The story remains as a landmark in the University’s history.

That unexpected breakthrough was based on my work entitled, ‘The Proverb in the Context of Akan Rhetoric.’ The humble achievement made Indiana my gateway to the world, giving me subsequent access to renowned universities across US and Europe: Stanford which nearly poached me in 1989; Northwestern, University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, UC Berkeley, University of Birmingham in UK, etc. My humble research work and its sequel were on indigenous rhetoric, and ethnography of communication. The urge to relocate outside was great, but I stuck to my grounds: University of Ghana, my alpha and omega.

Unbeknownst to me, Indiana was following my progress each step of the way. 2020, when the American Academy of Arts and Sciences elected me as International honorary fellow, the then President of IU, was quick to send me a word of congratulations, shortly after I had received felicitations from Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, which elected me as fellow in 1997. Last Monday, Indiana walked to my doorstep in Ghana here trumpeting an honor the new University President, Pamela Whitten, has extended to Kwesi Yankah for academic excellence, which has accelerated the choice of Ghana as Indiana University’s Gateway to Africa.

The big ceremony jointly organized by Indiana University and Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, was attended by academics, traditional leaders, religious leaders, IU alumni in Ghana, civil society, IGP, visiting students from IU, as well as Indiana University’s Interim Vice President for International Affairs, Hilary Khan. Let me quote below the words of I U President Michael McRobbie, celebrating my election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2020:

'Your election to the AAAS acknowledges the renown of your teaching, research and scholarship on the ethnography of communications, as well as your numerous accomplishments in higher education administration over the course of your impressive career. We are of course equally proud of everything you are doing in Ghana to advance education through your role as the Minister of State in charge of tertiary education as well as the various ways you are using your prominent voice in the promotion of democratic norms there. Indeed your exemplary efforts continue to serve as an inspiration to all of us, and we are pleased to court you among our most accomplished alumni.'


Michael McRobbie

Long live Ghana, Long live Indiana University.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.