Remembering Academics We Lost in the Diaspora in 2017



Yeworkwha Belachew, former assistant dean, ombudsperson and founder of the Dialogue Center at Oberlin College, died on June 14 after a long illness. She was 65 years old.

Belachew was a native of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She came to the United States and earned a bachelor’s degree at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. In 1978 she was hired by Oberlin College as a residence hall director. She was appointed assistant dean of residential life in 1989 and interim director of residential life in 1998.

In 2000, Belachew was named the inaugural ombudsperson at the college. She retired in 2015. A staff award was named in her honor as was the Center for Dialogue, which she founded.


Getahn Ward, a noted journalist and educator, died on December 9 in Nashville, Tennessee, after a brief illness. He was 45 years old. Ward was a business reporter for The Tennessean and a long-time adjunct professor at Tennessee State University in Nashville.

A native of Liberia in western Africa, Ward came to the United States in 1991 and became a U.S. citizen in 2014. He began work at The Tennessean in 1998 after working for the now shut down Nashville Banner. He also taught journalism classes at his alma mater, Tennessee State University.

Tameka Wilson, chair of the department of communications at Tennessee State University, said that “he was one of the kindest individuals that I have ever met. Getahn was a stellar professor and the department will never be able to replace him.”

The Getahn Ward Memorial Scholarship has been established at Tennessee State University. The scholarship will be awarded to a journalism student each year. The scholarship has been funded by the university, The Tennessean, the National Association of Black Journalists, and the Gannett Foundation. It is the first endowed scholarship in the department of communications at Tennessee State University. Professor Wilson added that “this scholarship represents a man who devoted much of his life to the field of journalism and to the education and success of students at Tennessee State University.”


Joseph M. Wahome, a former associate professor of biology in the department of natural sciences and environmental health at Mississippi Valley State University, died late last month in Greenwood Mississippi. He was 55 years old.

Dr. Wahome joined the faculty at Mississippi Valley State University in 1995 as an assistant professor. Earlier, he conducted postdoctoral research for the National Park Service at Golden Gate National Park in California. Dr. Wahome was also affiliated with the National Marine and Fisheries Science Center in Miami.

During his tenure at Mississippi Valley State University, Dr. Wahome served two terms as vice president of the faculty senate and one term as president. He chaired the department of natural sciences and environmental health at Mississippi Valley State University from 2002 to 2010.

Dr. Wahome earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Nairobi in Kenya. He held a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of California, Berkeley.


Calestous Juma, a professor of the practice of international development at the Kennedy School of Harvard University died on December 15 after a long illness. He was 64 years old.

Professor Juma was also the director of the Science, Technology, and Globalization project in the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. He joined the faculty there in 1999.

A native of Kenya, Dr. Juma taught science and was a journalist before he earned a Ph.D. in science and technology studies at the University of Sussex in England. He went on to establish a nonprofit organization dedicated to using science and technology to foster sustainable development in Africa.

Dr. Juma was the author of The Gene Hunters: Biotechnology and the Scramble for Seeds (Princeton University Press Legacy Series, 2014) and his most recent work, Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies (Oxford University Press, 2016).


Dovi Afesi, professor of history at Greenfield Community College in Massachusetts and a former assistant professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, died on December 2. He was 71 years old.

Dr. Afesi was a native of Ghana in West Africa. He came to the United States to attend preparatory school and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Dr. Afesi earned a Ph.D. in history at Michigan State University.

Dr. Afesi began teaching at the University of Massachusetts in 1972 and retired in 1984. Since that time he has returned to campus as a visiting lecturer. He joined the faculty at Greenfield Community College in the early years of this century.


David Mburu, a lecturer in the department of African and African American studies at the University of Kansas, died on October 30 in at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. He was 51 years old.

A native of Kenya, Mburu taught courses in the language of Kiswahili and popular culture in East Africa. He had been on the faculty at the university for nearly four years. Earlier, Dr. Mburu taught at the Center for African Peace and Conflict Resolutions on the campus of California State University, Sacramento.

Peter Ojiambo, associate professor and coordinator of African languages at the University of Kansas, stated that Dr. Mburu “was a man of great character, a talented intellectual, a gifted and dedicated teacher and a wonderful colleague who brought enormous experience and excellence to our language program.”

Clarence Lang, chair of the Department of African and African-American Studies at the University of Kansas, added that “David Mburu was a colleague of extraordinary warmth, humility, humor and intellect.”

Dr. Mburu held a Ph.D. from the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

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