Alumni unwind at UCU homecoming
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2022/12/alumni-unwind-at-ucu-homecoming/
By Irene Best Nyapendi
When Uganda Christian University (UCU) recently announced a homecoming event, the institution promised its alumni an opportunity to interact among themselves, as well as with their vice chancellors. And, true to their word, all three vice chancellors – the current, Aaron Mushengyezi, and the past, the Rev. Prof. Stephen Noll and his successor, the Rev. Canon Dr. John Senyonyi – were present to interact with the people they helped to nurture while administrators.
Noll, the first vice chancellor of UCU who led from 2000 to 2010, flew into Uganda with his wife, Peggy, from Pennsylvania where they live, to attend activities in the week of October 23-28, to celebrate 25 years of the institution.
At the alumni homecoming event on October 25, former students and the vice chancellors shared testimonies of how God had enabled the former to successfully complete education at UCU and for the latter, how God helped them make decisions for the betterment of UCU. The event began with a community worship in Nkoyoyo Hall and led by Mukono Bishop James William Ssebaggala, himself an alumnus. Ssebaggala thanked the university for educating children of the clergy.
Gilbert Olanya, a legislator who is serving his third term in the Ugandan Parliament, narrated how Uganda Partners came to his rescue when he had lost hope of continuing with education.
Olanya, who joined Parliament in 2011, said just after his first semester at UCU, he stared at a possibility of not continuing with education. His father, a farmer in Pader, northern Uganda, was forced into a settlement camp for internally displaced people due to the insecurity caused by the atrocities of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) terrorist group. LRA caused insecurity in northern Uganda from 1987 to 2006, with violence peaking in some years during that period. One such period was in the early 2000s, when Olanya’s family joined the camps, from where the government forces would offer them security.
The legislator said his father would use the proceeds from agriculture to pay tuition for him, but that when they were sent into camps, agriculture, too, stopped. However, a ray of hope came when the vice chancellor at the time, Stephen Noll, asked students who were not financially stable to fill out forms for scholarships. As Olanya headed for the holidays, he knew he had no other source of money for his tuition, and, therefore, he was seeing the last of his time in a university. However, just before the holidays ended, Olanya says he received a message from the university, announcing that he had been among the successful applicants for the scholarship, courtesy of the USA-based nonprofit called Uganda Partners.
“I must tell you, I was extremely happy. I studied for two-and-a-half years with the help of UCU Partners,” Olanya, who graduated in 2002, told The Standard website.
For the entire time he studied under the scholarship, Olanya says he kept receiving letters from his sponsor. “He (the sponsor) told me ‘Gilbert Olanya, we are supporting you, but we want nothing from you. What we need is for you to help others if you succeed in life’.”
Olanya told The Standard that he has so far sponsored 48 students who have completed university and is still supporting another 282 students in secondary schools, a perfect representation of the theme of the homecoming, Witnessing Through Kindness, picked off Luke 10:25-37.
Noll noted that being an alum of UCU is not just a one day event, urging former students to always concern themselves with matters of UCU. “For as long as we are alive, Peggy and I will hold you dear in our hearts,” Noll said, before explaining the relationship between a university and its former students.
““When you graduate, you become part of a larger family of the alumni. (During my time) As vice chancellor, I had to teach the students some of the Latin words, like alma mater, which means dear mother. UCU is the dear mother and the alum is the adopted son or daughter.”
Senyonyi, who was vice chancellor from 2010 to 2020, urged the former students to mobilize themselves and form UCU alumni chapters in their professions and careers, both in Uganda and beyond, to be able to help take the university to greater heights.
In response to the appeal made by Vice Chancellor Aaron Mushengyezi, the President of the UCU Alumni Association, Emmanuel Wabwire, asked the alumni to think of something which they can offer in support of the university. Wabwire was UCU Guild President in 2012.
Ten alumni were recognized for their contribution in making the society a better place. Among them were the Rev. Rebecca Nyegenye, the Provost of All Saints Cathedral Kampala and the chairperson of the board of Directors of Church Missionary Society Africa, as well as Bernard Oundo, the President of Uganda Law Society. The others were Dr. Elizabeth Nakawombe, Frank Walusimbi, Steven Asiimwe, Jimmy Enabi Ndyabahika and Arnaud Gahimbare.
To support Uganda Christian University programs, students, activities and services, go to www.ugandapartners.org and click on the “donate” button, or contact UCU Partners Executive Director, Mark Bartels, at firstname.lastname@example.org.