Dr. Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya

Distinguished guests gathered here on this momentous occasion, I salute you with felicitations of joy. I am honored and equally privileged to speak before you about Dr. Margee Ensign, the incoming and 29th president of Dickinson College.

I have known Dr. Margee Ensign for the last 23 years. There are so many epithets that should grace this occasion and which can convey my delight. I am delighted because I know that this prestigious college is going to be led by one of the most transformative personalities in the administration of higher education that I have been fortunate to enough meet and work with.

I met her when she came to Uganda to speak before the Uganda women Members of Parliament. That speech, which covered economic, political and social challenges in Uganda, led to a new discussion about mainstreaming gender in education. It particularly shaped new legislation that encouraged gender sensitive policy on educating the girl child from elementary to university education.

With a heritage that spans 234 years, Dickinson College has surely stood the test of time and is known here and abroad as a citadel of academic excellence.

When the news of her appointment found me, it was my conviction that the college could not have chosen anyone better than Dr. Margee Ensign at this point in time.

Institutions are a nexus of people, processes and resources that should be managed delicately to realize performance. Great institutions are built and sustained by great leaders who understand and implement their fundamentals. Moreover, if such institutions have leaders who carry real managerial skills, the sky is the limit for their growth and development. In Dr. Margee Ensign, Dickinson College has found not just a manager but also a great leader. One who, besides being in possession of such attributes, is a powerful vision bearer and positive change agent.

Having been a witness to Dr. Margee Ensign’s leadership tenure at the American University of Nigeria (AUN), I was at a loss when she announced her planned departure. She was a visionary leader, who participated in elevating from scratch a great institution in Africa. Not only did she attend to the academic element of the university; she inculcated a distinct work and team culture throughout the rank and file of the university. Until this day, I find it unrivaled in Africa. Her contributions to the internal development of the university made us believe that it is an institution built to last.

One of her most significant achievements was to bring the university to the people.

Situated in a relatively conservative region of Nigeria, it initially seemed a gamble to launch an American institution of liberal higher education in the area. It was also difficult to operate an institution with a myriad of nationalities, in an area that became challenged by conflict. Amidst these challenges, Dr. Margee Ensign negotiated a stakeholder consensus that allowed the university to become embraced by its surrounding constituencies. She co-founded the Adamawa Peace Initiative (API), a unique initiative of pacification in the region where the university is located.

Charged by the founder of AUN to create Africa’s first “development university,” she tirelessly sought ways of involving the university in the life and development of its local community and region, and its nation as well. AUN was to be no ivory tower. It was to transform lives, and it did. 

I observed that Dr. Margee Ensign was a consistent and hands on go-getter. Nothing in the interest of the university was beyond her reach. She is a great mobilizer, who puts together human, technical and financial resources to achieve all of the institution's goals almost without fail.

Another quality I noted with Dr. Ensign, and which I suppose will prove as an asset to her objective of leading Dickinson into the next phase of its future, is her sensitivity to people and her impartiality in the management of institutional affairs.

Dr. Margee Ensign at AUN demonstrated a rare sensitivity to people within and beyond the university. She was very accessible through an open door policy, and did not compartmentalize staff based on rank. She knew everyone on a first name basis. Dr. Ensign also did not discriminate on grounds of social strata, gender, sexuality, age, color or other socio-cultural, economic and political categories. This I found fundamental to an agenda that was multicultural, a core aspiration for universities in the 21st century.

It would be a shortcoming if  did not share the intellectual prowess of Dr. Margee Ensign, considering that she has been an institutional and academic leader at the same time. To lead an academic institution of the stature of Dickinson College, one’s caliber as an academic cannot be understated. Dr. Margee Ensign is an erudite scholar and made ground-breaking contributions to the academic communities at Columbia University, University of the Pacific in California, Tulane University, and Georgetown University

Dr. Margee Ensign during her career has received many honors. These include the African Leadership Award in Educational Excellence, induction as a Paul Harris Fellow, another African Leadership Award, an honorary doctorate from the American University of Paris and recognition by the Women of Jama’atul Nasril Islam in Nigeria.

I speak with certainty that this shall not be the end of an inflow of honors for Dr. Margee Ensign. At Dickinson College, her star shall continue to shine, and with its light shall follow more accolades in recognition of her contribution to the world of academia and humanitarianism. With Dr. Margee Ensign at Dickinson College, the college is headed for a new and progressive horizon. Under her stewardship, Dickinson College will stride into new frontiers that will remain memorable in the annals of its history. I congratulate Dr. Margee Ensign and also congratulate Dickinson College for this appointment. I say this in the spirit of useful education for the common good.

Professor Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya
Vice President Emeritus of the Republic of Uganda
Member of the Board of Trustees
American University of Nigeria


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