"Funnily enough, I was just thinking about Idy a few days ago" were the words of Nsikak Nyong, an AUN alumnus, who studied Communication & Multimedia Design, CMD, when we went to him to inquire about "Prof. Idorenyin Akpan."
We've been hearing that name since 2016 when we came to AUN. We see that name often, especially in the Robert A. Pastor Library & E-learning Center, on the nameplate by the door of Classroom 9, where CMD majors have most of their classes.
Because we are nearing graduation, we thought we should unravel the person behind the name.
We had learned from our initial homework that Prof. Akpan was born on December 21, 1968, in Obotme, Akwa Ibom State; he passed away after a brief illness in an Abuja hospital on October 29, 2014; and he joined AUN in 2009 as an associate professor of Public Relations & Advertising. Until his demise, he served as Chair of the CMD program, member of the Senate Curriculum Committee and Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences.
We were not satisfied, though, as that couldn't be all there was to the man after whom the CMD Digital Laboratory is named, the man for whom AUN created an official memorial website.
"I saw his daughter, and thoughts about him ran through my mind. When I saw her, my heart shattered. She reminds me of Idy, one of the most popular instructors to work at AUN," Mr. Nyong said.
Oh, so late Dean Akpan's daughter is here? we thought. How nice it would be to have her tell us about her dad!
"He was my male role model. He was a great dad, and he danced and played with us a lot," said El-Miracle, Akpan's 16-year-old daughter.
"He was a man of high standards and was incorruptible, and he never indulged in favoritism," said the Assistant Vice-President of Security & Safety, Dr. Lionel von Frederick Rawlins, while recalling the presents Akpan once gave him.
"[He gave me a] very classy hat and walking stick. I even wore the hat to his memorial. I was one of the people on the panel who voted for him [to be dean]. We didn't just vote for him because we liked him, but because we wanted someone who could carry out his responsibility well enough. He carried this responsibility very well," Dr. Rawlins said.
"That flashy guy!" was how Anthony Okoji remembered Dean Akpan. "I wasn't close to him, but he was a figure to notice. He was always completely dressed," said Mr. Okoji, Student Government Association advisor.
"His hat and walking stick . . . ha, he was a stepper!" said Shalom Otuene, an AUN graduate of International & Comparative Politics. She added, "I was not a CMD major, but I knew him."
"He transformed the CMD department completely. He molded and put CMD on the face of AUN; everybody knew where CMD was going to," said Ms. Hauwa Abubakar, the assistant registrar.
"Dean Akpan was a supporter of young people; he was a great believer in ‘the young shall grow.' He always said that," said Nelly Ating, an AUN alumna. "I will always hold him in high regard and his family as well; his wife has also become like a mother to me."
When we learned that Akpan's widow was Emilienne Idorenyin Akpan, our writing professor, and director of the Writing Center, we felt like slapping ourselves for not making the connection all along.
"He always separated family life from work. When he was at home, he was at home, and unless it was necessary, everything work-related had its place," Mrs. Akpan said. He could be very funny but he was also very intelligent, disciplined, spiritually sensitive, focused and kind. We had an extremely joyful home, and he had such a beautiful soul," she added.
Wow! Now we know what a rare gem Prof. Akpan was.
When, therefore, Mr. Nyong said he "touched the lives of every single student who experienced him," we could only wish we had been part of the storied experience. But for now, as Mrs. Akpan said, it's "Rest peacefully, Ediye, You will be forever missed and loved."
By Ruth Bala and Vivian Nweke