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Did You Know? The First Nigerian Woman to Become a Vice-Chancellor of a Nigeria University?

Born 16th December 1932, in Warri, in the present Delta State of Nigeria, Grace Alele-Williams made history as the first Nigerian woman to become the head of a Nigerian University, namely; the Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin.

Grace is an embodiment of Grace; haven risen through the ranks from a secondary school Maths teacher (at Queen’s school Ede Osun State in 1954 until 1957), to attaining the rank of a Professor of Mathematics Education at the University of Lagos in 1976. It is without a doubt, that this woman actually moved through different ranks of the educational structures of Nigeria by grace; more so, graciously.

Grace Alele-Williams attended Government School, Warri and Queen’s College, Lagos. She also attended the University of Ibadan (Previously called University College), the University of Vermont, U.S.A and the University of Chicago (U.S.A).[1] It was from Queen’s School, Ede Osun state, that she proceeded to University of Vermont to become a graduate assistant and eventually, an assistant Professor. She became a post-doctoral research fellow at the department (and institute) of education University of Ibadan between 1963 and 1965.[2]

Grace: A Name, A Trait and An Attribute of Alele-Williams

The name Grace is well befitting for such a woman; an academic giant; an intellectual colosssus. Besides being the first Nigerian female Vice-Chancellor of any Nigerian University, Grace Alele-Williams typified her name in so many ways; from the offices she occupied, to the appointments she handled. Few of these achievements, appointments and offices include the facts that:

  • Grace Alele-Williams was also the First Nigerian woman to receive a doctorate degree.[3]
  • She was also the first female Professor of Mathematics in Nigeria.[4]
  • She served as a member of the governing council, UNESCO institute of Education.
  • She was also a consultant to UNESCO and Institute of International Education Planning.
  • She was a member of the African Mathematics Programme at Newton, Massachusetts, United State.
  • She was also Vice-President of the World Organization for Early Childhood Education, and eventually became the president of the Nigerian Chapter.
  • She was in the Board of Directors of Chevron-Texaco Nigeria.
  • Grace Alele-Williams was a board member of HIP Asset Management Company ltd. In Lagos.
  • Notably, she was regarded as a force to be reckoned with, and the Iron Lady for Nigerian Universities during the dark ages of secret cult confraternities spread. Her strides in University of Benin; the courage, wisdom and tact; ingenuity and strategy, she engaged in handling the issue of cultism in University of Benin was well recognized.
  • Grace Alele-Williams also published a book titled Modern Mathematics Handbook for Teachers.

Some of the honors conferred upon the intellectual giant and administrator include:

  • The National honour of the Order of the Niger in 1987.
  • Merit Award Winner of Bendel State in Nigeria.
  • Fellow of the Mathematical Association of Nigeria.
  • Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Education.
  • Regional Vice President for Africa of the Third World Organization for Women in Science.

Grace Alele-Williams was the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Benin from 1985 till 1991. She serves as the Chairwoman of the African Mathematical Union Commission for Women in Mathematics (AMUCWMA).


[1] “Biographical Sketches of famous African mathematicians: Grace Alele-William”, AMUCHMA Newsletter, Africa Mathematical Union, Commission on the History of Mathematics in Africa, 12.

[2] Wikipedia

[3] Agnes Scot

[4] African Success

Featured image source: Silverbird TV

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Jeremiah Aluwong

Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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