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  • Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Meet Mark Nwagwu, an 87-yr-old Ph.D. UI student of anthropology

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Mark Nwagwu, could be described as a man who believes in the realisation of his dreams.  It is only faith in one’s dreams that could propel a man to still be in pursuit of a second PhD at the age of 87 when many would have retired to fate.

For a man who had his first doctorate in Zoology in 1965 to still be on course for another PhD at such an age simply suggests Nwagwu is someone who does not take anybody else’s definition of success as his own.

Born on May 17, 1937, to the family of Charles Nwagwu, and Helen his wife from Obaetiti, Nguru-Aboh Mbaise in Imo State, the octogenarian began his dream adventure to excellence.

 Growing up in the pre-independent era of south-eastern Nigeria, the young Nwagwu had his life enveloped with dreams and aspirations.

“I attended Christ the King School, Aba, 1942-49. My life revolved around going to school and playing football after school. There was ample space between two adjoining houses and we played football in this space, the goalposts at the beginning and end of the passage. I often had homework to do but I paid more attention to football,” he said.

Mark Nwagwu is a man who has talents and learns somehow to use the whole of it, little wonder he is gloriously a success even at 87, and has triumphed where few men will ever dare.

The doctorate holder in Zoology and is currently a Ph.D. student in Anthropology at the University of Ibadan. He will be completing his second PhD in 2027, at 90, all things being equal.


Caption: Mark Nwagwu (87 next week) shared this photo on FB. He’s seated with Dr. Olumiyiwa Olusanya (right), who’s 90 today, and Prof ABO Desalu, 92 (centre).

Before his retirement in 2002, Nwagwu served as a senior lecturer at the University of Ibadan, and he is also a Fellow at the Nigerian Academy of Science.

Despite being engulfed in academic works, as a professor of cell molecular biology at the University of Ibadan, Nwagwu had time for poems and had spaces in newspapers as a columnist.

His academic quest continued from St. Patrick’s College, Calabar in Cross River State from 1950 to 1956. In 1957, he went to study Zoology at the then-University College, Ibadan.

After that, he was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of London in 1961 and 1965, and received a Ph.D. from the University of Stockholm.

Propelled by his dreams and aspirations, Nwagwu went to the University of Connecticut, USA, in 1966, where he accomplished spectacular research on myosin messenger RNA and muscle-protein synthesis on a post-doctoral fellowship.

In 1969, he was appointed assistant professor of Cell and Molecular Biology at Brock University, Canada, and later rose to the rank of associate professor in 1973.

Speaking about his work ‘Dreams Dance’, Anya O. Anya, said,  “Dreams Dance is a glaring testimony to the life of Mark Nwagwu, a man born with a broad-based talent which copiously equipped him for the ‘dreams’ to which he ‘danced’ all his life. His ‘dreams’ were not myths, but ‘dances’ to the graces of God.”

Similarly, David Okali, commenting on the book said, “The story of Professor Nwagwu’s life has been uniquely embellished by the triple helix of his love for God, his love for Helen, and his love for science. Dreams Dance straddles and encompasses the realms of the spiritual, the rational, and the tangible in our daily lives.”

Speaking about his at the University of Ibadan, and Nigeria, Nwagwu, said, “The University of Ibadan campus provides the most elegant, beloved, and intriguing piece of prized property in Nigeria.

“Some of Nigeria’s finest minds have lived, and still, live here. I would dare say that in so many interesting ways, Nigeria begins and ends where the University of Ibadan begins and ends. Whoever thinks of this country must perforce think of the University of Ibadan.”

“This is not just a university: it is a cultural and intellectual masterpiece in our variegated firmament of knowledge and enterprise. No wonder, it is a special pride of Nigeria,” he added.

Scholastica, speaking on Nwagwu via her X handle @ScholasticaOla tweeted, “I did not get the opportunity to be lectured by Prof Mark Nwagwu – he had retired. However, I got to read his poems and hear him speak once at a Zoology conference. 15 years later, I still apply the advice he gave at that conference.”

Akin Falayajo @akinfalayajo, a consultant in Acute Medicine, commended the renowned academia, and expressed his nostalgia thus; “My dad’s inner circle at the U.I. Staff Club. This picture could easily have been taken in our back garden 30 years ago, of course with Mum, my late dad and Helen Nwagwu in it!

Mark Nwagwu paid for my SAT and college applications back in the day…great heart. Great men!”

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