Mĩcere Gĩthae Mũgo, Emeritus Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence in the Department of African American Studies (AAS) in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) at Syracuse University, passed away on June 30, 2023, at the age of 81. A memorial service to honor Professor Mũgo will be held at Hendricks Chapel on Saturday, July 29 at 10 AM.
Mũgo, who joined the faculty of A&S in 1993, distinguished herself as teacher-scholar, administrator and social activist. Among her leadership roles with A&S, she served as chair of AAS from 2005 to 2008, helped launch the department’s Master of Arts in Pan African Studies Program in 2005 and served as the first full-time director of the Africa Initiative from 2001 to 2005. Mũgo retired from Syracuse University in 2015 and was honored with emerita status.
Mũgo earned a bachelor’s degree at Makerere University in Uganda, a master’s degree at the University of New Brunswick, and a Ph.D. at the University of Toronto. Before her time at Syracuse University, she taught at Cornell University, St. Lawrence University, the University of Zimbabwe and the University of Nairobi. While at the University of Nairobi, she served as the first female dean of an African university, before being forced into exile with her two daughters, Mũmbi wa Mũgo and the late Njeri Kũi Mũgo, in 1982 due to her political activism.
As a teacher-scholar of African Oral Literature (Orature), Mũgo wrote and lectured extensively on the subject and organized numerous events at Syracuse University, including campus visits by Wangari Maathai and Wole Soyinka, winners of the Nobel Peace Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature, respectively. Mũgo authored six books and four monographs, and edited eight supplementary school readers and the journal Third World in Perspective (Third World Conference Foundation). She was also well-known for her co-authored 1977 play, “The Trial of Dedan Kimathi,” which had a highly publicized 10-day run at the University of California at Irvine.
Mũgo was recognized numerous times for her efforts in social activism and academia. She was named an Elder of the Order of the Burning Spear, Kenya’s highest honor, and received several prestigious awards including the Marcus Garvey Award from the Canadian Branch of Universal Negro Improvement Association, the Rockefeller Foundation Award for writing and publication and the Flora Nwapa Award for excellence in Africana literature. Mũgo was also inducted into Phi Beta Kappa Society (the oldest honor society for the liberal arts and sciences) and was invited to speak at the United Nations.
A committed community activist, Mũgo participated in numerous organizations, including the Ghana Society of Central New York, the Pan African Community of Central New York and the United Women of Africa Organization, the latter two of which she founded and served as inaugural president. She also participated on many other boards of directors, editorial boards and advisory boards around the world.
Following her passing, several leaders posted their condolences on social media, including the former Chief Justice of Kenya, Willy Mutunga, who said, “Our Comrade, Sister, and Revolutionary, Professor Micere Githae Mũgo joined our ancestors some four hours ago. May she shine in the light of the ancestral abode as she shone on earth with revolutionary light. Her revolutionary Spirit LIVES.”
All are welcome to attend the memorial service for Professor Mũgo:
Hendricks Chapel of Syracuse University
Saturday, July 29
Parking will be available in lots across campus on a first come, first served basis. Visit https://parking.syr.edu/ for information and direction. For questions about the service or accommodations, please call 315.443.2901 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.