Benard Gitau @Benagitau
President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday led hundreds of mourners in eulogising the late Havard University lecturer Prof Calestous Juma as a scholar who displayed virtues of persistence and innovation.
Speaking at Prof Juma’s requiem at Holy Family Minor Basilica, Nairobi, the President described the late scholar as a trailblazer in science, innovation and development studies.
Prof Juma’s widow Alison Field Juma told the mourners that the don who had been on hospital bed at Massachusetts General Hospital, had wished to add another chapter to his memoir about scientific and medical research that had extended his life.
“He had his own very personal experience of the recent advances in cancer treatment using genomics that had extended his own life. He would have contributed to that ongoing experiment that will help so many in the future,” she said.
She eulogised the don as an optimistic person, who gathered information before transforming it into ideas and policies to make the earth a better place. “He loved to teach and lived his life to the fullest even when he was ill and on his hospital bed,” she said. She added that, his values had their roots in his parents and in his home in Port Victoria where he will be buried tomorrow.
“The repeated floods brought destruction and dislocation but they also brought new life through fertile soils and even floating Islands from Uganda complete with wildlife,” she said, adding that Prof Juma was a jovial person who liked to joke, smile and to bring the best out of people by giving them the confidence to believe in themselves.
The requiem was also attended by the late don’s son Eric Juma, Kenya top scholars, who were joined by University of Eldoret Chancellor Prof Judith Mbula, University of Nairobi Vice Chancellor Prof Peter Mbithi and JKUAT Chancellor Prof Geoffrey Moriaso.
Others included Cabinet secretaries Eugene Wamalwa (Water), Prof Judi Wakhungu (Environment) and Henry Rotich (Treasury) also attended the requiem that was graced by former Vice President Moody Awori, Nairobi Women’s Rep Esther Passaris, Busia Senator Amos Wako, Narc leader Martha Karua and Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua.
“Prof Juma’s formal teaching career began at Egoji and ended at Havard. That is the power of persistence: He simply kept going, improving himself and his students along the way. We ought to take that lesson to heart,” said the President.
He said the scholar’s specialty was an application of science and technology in daily life, pointing out that Prof Juma “was willing to try something different; and if it could be done better, he would show how it could be done”.
Uhuru said Prof Juma’s book on innovation and its enemies shows that he understood resistance to innovation and this could be overcome through patient education and institutional change.