UL traces its origins to Liberia College. Liberia College
was incorporated by an Act of the Legislature of Liberia in
December 1851. The University of Liberia, therefore, is the
second oldest institution of higher learning in West Africa----
second in rank to Furah Bay College, now the University of
Sierra Leone. The Trustees of Donations for Education in Liberia
laid the Cornerstone and financed the first building on January
25, 1858. Underlying this effort was the belief that: "The
Republic of Liberia ought to have within itself the means
of educating its citizens for all the duties of public and
Simon Greenleaf, the Harvard College law professor who drafted
Liberia's Independence Constitution of 1847, led the effort
to establish Liberia College.
1862, the first President of our Republic, Honorable Joseph
Jenkins Roberts, was inaugurated as the first President of
Liberia College. With Roberts and two professors--- the Revs.
Alexander Cromwell and Professor Dr. Edward Wilmot Blyden--
and seven students, Liberia College opened its doors in February
most of the next 90 years, the college struggled with great
obstacles to maintain its existence and integrity. As the
sovereignty of the Liberian state remained challenged, so
was uncertainty about the survival of Liberia College. The
college was forced to close its doors on at least three separate
occasions during this period. The Liberian State and the College
managed to survive, however. Graduates were few, but the role
that the leadership of the college played in Liberian society
was significant, as were the contributions of its graduates.
beginning with the Trustees of Donation for Education in Liberia,
provided a welcome, but limited resource for the College until
the Tubman era (1943-71), when financial resources became
available to the Liberia State, following the successful cultivation
of rubber and the discovery of iron ore deposits in Liberia.
prices for these commodities in the 1950s raised Liberian
public sector revenues more than eight fold in a decade.
effects on the larger society of the resulting favorable terms
of trade monetized a hitherto barter economy, leading to phenomenal
public sector growth. That growth resulted in higher demand
in the public sector for managerial and technical labor. Further,
the need for capacity in the technical positions established
in the new sectors caused the Liberian Government to appreciate
the need for higher education through a national university.
in 1951, the Legislature of the Republic chartered the University
Liberia College had been established to prepare the nation's
Clergymen and public officials, the national University among
other goals, sought to become a: "
center of learning
with high academic standards which is dedicated to the pursuit,
promotion and dissemination of knowledge with emphasis on
practical knowledge which is immediately useful to economic,
social and cultural development needs."
College and the University of Liberia have made significant
impact on the Liberian society. Leaders of the College were
frequently the leaders of the nation. In the 1870s, the College's
leadership was at the center of national political developments,
a fact reflected in President Joseph Jenkins Roberts' retirement
from the presidency of the College to assume the presidency
of Liberia for the second time in 1876.
national leaders who served the College as President included
Professor Dr. Edward W. Blyden, the erudite Pan-Africanist
scholar, diplomat and political activist, who served as a
Secretary of State of Liberia. Liberia's former president
Garretson W. Gibson was also President of Liberia College.
President Arthur Barclay, the first graduate of Liberia College
in 1873, was president of his Alma mater from 1901 to 1902,
and again from 1914 to 1917. Arthur Barclay succeeded J.J.
Dossen, the future Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia.
At the conclusion of his term as President of the College,
Barclay was succeeded by Charles D. B. King, who himself served
as President of Liberia between 1920 and 1930.
Charles D. B. King's Secretary of State, Edwin J. Barclay,
a graduate of Liberia College in 1903, succeeded him as President
of Liberia. Edwin Barclay, as King's Secretary of State, negotiated
the Firestone Plantations Agreement of 1926.
graduates and former students of the University of Liberia
also contributed significantly to African development. University
and College graduates, who served the nation, also served
Africa and the larger international community. Prior to Ghana's
independence in 1957, Liberia was the foremost activist promoting
and financing the Africa independence movement. From Nmandi
Azikwe to Sam Njoma; from Nelson Mandela to Robert Mugabe;
from Julius Nyerere to Jomo Kenyatta; from Ahmed Ben Bella
to Ahmed Sekou Toure; from Hastings Kamuzu Banda, to Kwame
Nkrumah and Sir Alhaji Abubakar Tafewa Belewa, each came to
consult Liberian leaders; most enhanced their leadership through
interaction with Liberia's former Secretary of State J. Rudolph
Grimes (Alumnus of Liberia College Class of 1943) and William
R. Tolbert (Class of 1934). Most of these leaders were initiated
into the fraternity of the University of Liberia honoris causa
roles Liberian leaders - graduates of the College or the University
-played in African affairs
R. Tolbert ,Jr. (Class of 34), as Tubman's special Envoy,
was pivotal in ending the Biafran War when his shuttle diplomacy
resulted in the famous meeting in Monrovia between Dr. Azikwe
and General Yakubu Gowan. Rocheforte L. Weeks (Liberia College
Class of 1944 and President of the University of Liberia from
1959 to 1972) and foreign Minister of Liberia (1972), was
a member of Liberia's legal team who appeared before the International
Court of Justice in the case against South Africa's illegal
occupation of the then Southwest Africa (Now Namibia).
Oliver Bright (Liberia College Class of 1956) and D. Franklin
Neal (Class of 1952), under Secretary of State Grimes' leadership
and supervision, drafted the Charter of the Organization of
African Unity (OAU, now known as the African Union). An unsolicited
draft of the Charter submitted as a working document, inspired
the proponents, thus ending the fractious division between
the Monrovia and Casablanca Powers. Neal also supervised the
drafting of the Treaty of League, the agreement that created
the Economic Community of West African States, (ECOWAS). A
former dean of the College Business and Public Administration
of the University of Liberia, A. Romeo Horton, who became
the first Managing Director of the ECOWAS Fund, formed part
of the small group that drafted the instrument for establishment
of the African Development Bank.
significant contribution of this institution to national life
have continued unabated. During the Liberian civil war, a
large number of graduates of the University continued to accept
the call to national service.
of its alumni, former professors and deans, assumed pivotal
roles in the Liberian peace process, including Professors
Amos C. Sawyer, and the late Professor Wilton Sankawulo, who
served as Interim Heads of State of the Republic.
civil war reduced the capacity of the University of Liberia
to respond adequately to the production of competitive human
resources that can generate and manage sustainable social,
economic development activities in Liberia.
University also experienced extensive damage to its physical
plant and facilities during the period of war and civil unrest
in the country.
example, more than 90% of the University's facilities, including
computers, books, and typewriters were looted and pillaged.
More than three-fourths of its library collections of about
2 million volumes of texts, periodicals and rare books were
ruined. 70% of the Main campus's science complex and 50% of
the medical dormitories were damaged. The percentage of damaged
facilities was as high as 80% in many buildings on the medical
campuses while the Fendall campus, where the University had
relocated before the war, was destroyed, the minimum damage
done to any single building more than 85%. The University's
cadre of 1,400 teaching, research and administrative staff,
including 500 internationally trained faculty, substantially
dissipated in number to about 307 as a result of the brain
challenges to restore the University to a quality institution
of higher learning is daunting but it must be done. Although
we have destroyed and limited facilities we must respond to
enrollment that has increased from pre-war level of 9,500
to about 18,000 today.
excerpts taken from President Sirleaf Address to the University
MARCH 23, 2009