Grace Alele-Williams, Nigeria’s first female Vice Chancellor passed away on Friday, March 25, 2022, at the age of 89.
In 1985, Alele-Williams was appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin. She was also the first Nigerian woman to receive a doctorate.
Reacting to the news of her passing, Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki on Facebook wrote,
Obaseki mourns passing of renowned mathematician, UNIBEN ex-VC, Prof. Alele-Williams
It is with a heavy heart that I received the sad news of the passing of renowned academic and administrator, Prof. Grace Alele-Williams.
Prof. Alele-Williams was a thoroughbred academician who throughout her life left an indelible mark of dutiful service, hard work, diligence and determination.
She was an Amazon, who tread where others dreaded. Her devotion to national development is unmatched.
As the first female Nigerian to earn a doctorate degree in mathematics, Prof. Alele-Williams was a woman of many firsts. She shattered the glass ceiling and didn’t look back thereafter.
When she became the Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin (UNIBEN) – at the time the first ever female Vice Chancellor of a Nigerian university – she shone brightly as a fearless administrator and restored sanity to the higher institution during a period of social upheaval.
Prof. Alele-Williams will be remembered for her insight, dedication to duty and courage as well as her commitment to breaking barriers limiting the advancement of women in uncharted territories.
I commiserate with the Alele-Williams family, praying that God will grant all the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss.
Governor, Edo State
Here are nine things to know about her:
1. She was born on December 16, 1932, in Delta State, to an Itsekiri mother and an Owan (Edo) father from Sobe.
2. She attended Government School in Warri, Queens College in Lagos, and the University College of Ibadan (now the University of Ibadan).
3. She earned her Master’s degree in Mathematics while teaching at Queen’s School in Ede, Osun State, in 1957, and her PhD in Mathematics Education at the University of Chicago (US) in 1963, making her the first Nigerian woman to be awarded a doctorate.
4. In 1976, she became Nigeria’s first female professor of mathematics education.
5. In 1985, she became the first female Vice Chancellor of a Nigerian university when she was appointed to the University of Benin, a position she held until 1992.
6. From 1965 to 1985, she was a lecturer at the University of Lagos, and she directed the Institute of Education for a decade, where she introduced non-degree programs, with many certificate recipients being older women working as elementary school teachers.
7. She served as the Third World Organization for Women in Science’s regional vice-president for Africa and was the first president of the African Mathematical Union Commission for Women in Mathematics.
8. She received numerous awards, including the Order of Niger in 1987, Fellow of the Mathematical Association of Nigeria, Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Education, and a merit award from the old Bendel State in Nigeria. On February 28, 2014, she was presented with the centennial award.
9. She is married to Dr. Babatunde A. Williams, a political scientist who was then a Senior Lecturer at the University of Ife in Osun State, and they have five children and ten grandchildren.