A Scholar’s Scholar

By Laolu Akande, New York   |   18 December 2009   |   10:00 pm  

Falola was presented with the prestigious award recently by the Chancellor Charles Bantz of Indiana University Purdue at the 1st Public Scholars in Africana Studies International Conference on Globalization held at the university.

 

 

In recognizing him, the university stated in a release that “it is particularly fitting that Dr. Falola receives this award this year because this is the year that he has surpassed his mark of publishing more than 100 books.” It added that Falola is a “scholar with impeccable credentials,” which stood him in good stead to become the inaugural recipient of the award.

Besides, Falola who has bagged several awards already in the US and across the academic world, is regarded as the only scholar who has had three volumes of learned articles or essays written by his colleagues as a tribute to him.

The university stated further that “the academic world has run out of superlatives to describe the magnificent body of scholarship produced through the years by the indefatigable Dr. Toyin Falola.”

Highlighting some of them, the release stated that Falola is “the Frances Higginbotham Nalle Centennial Professor of History and Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas at Austin; the Nelson Mandela Professor of African Studies at Large; the Ibn Khaldun Distinguished Research Professor; a Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters, and a Fellow of the Historical Society of Nigeria. He also received an Honorary Doctorate from Monmouth University.”

It was further noted that Falola, who is based in Texas where he teaches history at University of Texas, Austin “has achieved many milestones in his career, including the fact that he was promoted to the rank of Full Professor by the age of 35. Since that time, the world has witnessed his meteoric rise to that of international professor, scholar, and global icon of African history and international political economy.”

In the release signed by Dr. (Mrs.) Besie House Soremekun, an American married to a Nigerian, Falola, a former lecturer at the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, was described as the leading African historian of his generation in the world today. He had indeed graduated from Ife where he received his B.A. and Ph.D. degrees with honours.

She added that he has been described as “the most prolific, productive, and accomplished historian of Africa not only of our era, but of all eras. A genre-bender of extraordinary talent, his contributions are wide-ranging and have covered all aspects that we label as ‘Africana Studies,’ from history to literature, economics to political economy, religion to culture, and even the creative zones of poetry and the memoir.”

Falola was described as one of the most respected and influential scholars of the 20th and 21st centuries, having published more than 100 books in some of the most prestigious publishing houses in the world and numerous journal articles in his field.

In his scholarly work, Falola was described in the university profile as someone who “skillfully interrogates the inter-connectedness between political, economic, social, religious, and cultural phenomenon and steps outside of the disciplinary boundaries of history to examine these issues at the highest level of analysis.”

It added: “He is the supreme global scholar who serves on the Editorial Boards of more than 20 journals. He is the Editor of African Economic History, published by the University of Wisconsin in Madison; Series Editor for the University of Rochester Press Studies in Africa and the Diaspora; the Senior Editor for the Greenwood Press Series on Culture and Customs of Africa, and the Series Editor of Classic Authors and Texts on Africa for the Africa World Press.”

He is also known as a highly respected global scholar who is always in constant demand to share his tremendous knowledge and expertise on a wide variety of topics relating to Africa and the African Diaspora. He routinely grants interviews to the press, writes opinion pieces, and serves as an international consultant with governmental and non-governmental organizations.

He was also praised for disseminating his scholarship to the world community and for creating the USA/Africa Dialogue Listserv in 2004, which today has more than 50,000 subscribers, serving as an important international forum for policy makers, journalists, intellectuals, scholars, students and professionals to receive timely news and information about Africa and the diasporic communities of the world.

Through the years, Falola has been invited to present keynote lectures on a consistent basis in almost all of the continents of the world.

He has taught at many universities on three continents including the University of Cambridge in England, Smith College in Massachusetts, York University in Canada, the Australian University in Canberra, the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs in Lagos and the Pontificia Universidade Catolica De Sao Paulo in Brazil.

Because of his extraordinary skills in the classroom to educate and produce new generations of scholars, he has won teaching awards on three continents, including many garnered at the University of Texas at Austin where he is currently based.

Describing the procedure for the award, the Conference Covener, Dr Soremekun said : “We sent out a call for nominations to solicit recommendation letters for scholars for the Africana Studies Distinguished Global Scholar Lifetime Achievement Award. We set the bar very high this year and were looking for a very special scholar who exemplified special types of characteristics.”

The university was looking, she said, for an individual who can more accurately be described as the “quintessential scholar’s scholar”, whose lifetime has been exemplified by the relentless search for knowledge in all of its various facets. She said Falola was the only scholar who was nominated for the award by three different scholars.

She also noted that “Africa has given birth to towering sons and daughters who rank among the best historians in the world. But there can be no doubt that given his prodigious output of scholarship informed by critical perspectives, with its interminable latitudes of vigorous theoretical and empirical saliency, Professor Falola is the most versatile and productive historian that Africa and perhaps the rest of the world has produced in recent memory.”

The awards ceremony marked the end of a well-attended international conference on globalization organized by Dr. Soremekun.

About 575 people were in attendance at the conference over a three-day period, including the awards dinner. The theme of the conference was ‘Rethinking Economic Development in the Context of Globalization: Entrepreneurship, the Knowledge Economy, and Sustainable Development.’ His Royal Majesty, Oba Michael Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, Okukenu IV, the Alake and Paramount Ruler of Egbaland was the keynote speaker for the awards dinner where he discussed ‘The Changing Role of Nigeria in the 21st Century Knowledge Economy.’

The conference also featured some of the best and brightest scholars from universities and colleges representing Africa, Europe, North America and South America.



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