On November 1, 2019, the university community spoke in unison, celebrating the life and times of late Professor John Erwyn Leonard. The Economics professor died on October 24, 2019.
President Dekle said the late professor's true calling was serving in AUN.
"John found his purpose place at AUN. For John, Yola was a paradise on earth and the place where he wanted to live and have it close to his purpose in life.
"These days, there abound bookshops that have lots of self-help books, making our generation very focused on the self. But the late professor was selfless. Prof. Leonard lived his life to help others.
"We [referring to Americans] are known for the self-help movement. What is so fascinating about John, however, is that he seemed to have started his movement called 'the other help.' In America, there is no section called 'other-help' like there is self-help… He gave selflessly, tirelessly, and effortlessly. He was the last person to give to himself."
She also spoke of his numerous sacrifices.
"He never turned down a request to teach an additional class to give a public seminar, to help students with tuition fees, to assist with medical bills, to attend the birthday party, or even my holiday party when I invited him into my own house." (Read her tribute)
SGA President, Taslim Oladoja, spoke of how friendly he was from his few encounters with the late academic.
"He made jokes effortlessly without knowing me, without wanting to know whether I was his student or not."
Dr. Lionel von Frederick Rawlins of Safety & Security Operations equally spoke of his friendship with him.
"He lived a very good life. He was a very happy man…John loved his family and his family loves him…When he introduced me to his family, I saw a glow in John's face. He wanted his family to know that he had friends here in AUN and he wanted me to know that he had family [in California]."
Dean of SAS, Dr. Patrick Fay, spoke of why the professor had not lived in vain because he exemplified many positive virtues. The professor always had a full course load in SAS. And he would also take on classes from the School of Business & Entrepreneurship whenever the need arose.
"And he got nothing extra from it. That was a measure of his commitment…Prof. John Leonard was a true gentleman. He was generous to a fault. He never said no to anybody. Some people had been educated either here at AUN or somewhere solely because John sponsored them."
The professor was eager to advise any student and faculty on any issue. "And if you asked him to do something, he would never say no… He never missed a meeting. He served on numerous committees."
He also mentioned that the professor had a social side since he had often entertained the audience by playing the piano during the annual Honor Society fundraising dinner.
Chair of Economics, Dr. Wasiq Khan, said of all the instructors in the Economics program, the late professor's class usually got filled before others, maybe because the late professor was very knowledgeable.
"As somebody whom I worked with, I pride a few things about John; one thing I remember about him is that he was an encyclopedia when it came to any kind of information about modern economics. He was a walking biographical encyclopedia of almost every famous economist from the 20th century. He would be able to tell you their articles, where they taught [and] when they died."
Professor Khan would go on to provide more insights into Mr. Leonard's origins (Oregon, USA) and academic foundations (Math), two factors that greatly influenced his political worldview (he was Conservative) and inclination toward econometrics.
Students who are currently enrolled in his class also took the stage to pay tribute. Hasan Kabir spoke of how his [John’s] class had been amazing.
"Prof. Leonard was always dedicated to his work. As someone of his age, you would expect him to always go to class late or be canceling classes unnecessarily, but Prof. Leonard was always present and on time."
He recalled the excitement in class when everyone gave a sitting ovation whenever the late Professor finished calling the roll and everyone was present.
"If anyone was absent, there wouldn't be an ovation…He cracked wonderful jokes in class whenever he noticed that the class was dull."
Abou Sufyan spoke of his intellect and his great sense of humor.
"He was such a great instructor and, above all, a great human being. He had his own way of making the most complex subject look very simple. This was one of his greatest skills as a professor… He cracked the most jokes."
Ms. Juliet Tobon spoke of how he always took an interest in all his students. He usually insisted that students call their peers when they were missing from class.
He was always proud of his students who were able to finish their course load and graduate successfully. And he always boasted of his students who had graduated and were working here in Nigeria and abroad."
And for Murna Othman, she always left Leonard's class happy regardless of her initial mood.
Instructor of Management & Entrepreneurship, Fardeen Dodo, said he never saw Leonard argue with anybody.
"John was peace-loving; he was the most peaceful human being you could meet on AUN campus."
Vice President for Academic Affairs & Provost, Prof. Muhammadou Kah, said AUN would always remember him for his commitment to teaching, scholarship, and service to the AUN community and beyond.
"We have lost a great colleague, a great educator; our colleague was a committed academic and contributed immensely to the development of AUN through each one's view and others who have graduated. He was a true reflection of an academic-teacher and scholar. He never hesitated to step up whenever our community was in need. (Read tribute)
Reported by Omorogbe Omorogiuwa