Prayers and eulogies flowed freely in the auditorium as the university community paid its last respects to the departed professor of Economics, John Leonard. Memories rained down in torrents from an academic community that hasn't forgotten how to deliver zesty sound bites in the finest traditions of a citadel that proudly imparts public speaking skills.
The usually organized Dean Byron Bullock masterfully compèred to a synchronized timeline, but the task of seducing the audience into philosophical somberness was left to a first-year solo saxophonist.
Electrical/Electronics freshman, David Chima Iheonu, delivered a flawless sax rendition of two classic songs - 'Amazing Grace' and 'It Is Well With My Soul', two of the most sung inspirational hymnals drenched in history and tragic symbolism.
'Amazing Grace', a favorite of the Faithful, was composed in 1779 by the (no irony intended) English clergyman and slave owner-turned-abolitionist John Newton. It is now estimated to be performed 10 million times annually and appeared in 11,000 albums.
A favorite of the Hopeful, 'It Is Well with My Soul', is attributed to the melancholic Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888) who sailed against earthly headwinds with a nonchalant spirit that mocked his many tragedies.
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul
Death is tragic; the death of a doyen intellectual and mentor, doubly so. Many in the auditorium knew and hummed the lyrics to David's harmonic play in the fleeting and scary knowledge that another towering academic (Professor of Communications Idorenyin Akpan) was lost in the same month of October (2014). It is well with the AUN Community.
Given John Leonard's famed hospitality and mentorship instincts, it would be interesting seeing how he would thank David for this superlative and unforgettable performance.