Alison, Eric, and Professor Juma’s family,
Professor Juma’s Harvard family,
We meet here to console and encourage all those who loved Professor Juma, and to celebrate his life and achievements.
Our words of commemoration and consolation cannot match his achievement; but they can assuage grief and remind us to emulate the example he set.
Calestous Juma enjoyed an exemplary career as teacher and technologist, and as
author and authority on innovation. His journey may have ended in Boston, but it
began in Busia, right here in Kenya.
The first act of his career was probably his graduation from Egoji Teachers’
College: he went on to teach, and to impart his love of learning to many. Before
long, he had moved into policy work, founding the African Centre for Technology
He was later to become Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention on
Biological Diversity; before making his way to Harvard, where he taught
development and innovation, and mentored a generation of students.
That, in bare outline, is the formal career of the scholar we celebrate today. But
what can we learn from his life? What lessons has he left us?
The first is perseverance. Professor Juma’s formal teaching career began at Egoji
and ended at Harvard. That is the power of persistence: he simply kept going,
improving himself and his students along the way. We ought to take that lesson to
The second virtue he taught us to treasure is innovation. If something didn’t work,
Professor Juma was willing to try something different; and if it could be done
better, he would show how it could be done.
Anyone who has read his book on innovation and its enemies will know that he
understood resistance to innovation; and he knew that it could be overcome by
patient education and institutional change. His clear-eyed devotion to innovation
is now more important than it was when he began his career. Let us learn from
We ought also to learn to love learning as he did. I said earlier that his appetite for
knowledge, and his generosity in sharing it, were astonishing.
We celebrate Professor Juma’s achievements. We pray for peace and courage for
his family, and for the consolation that comes from knowing that his was a life of
scholarship, and of service to his country and continent; it was a life exceptionally
May God rest the soul of Professor Juma in eternal peace. And may He comfort
and console all those who loved him, and learned from him.
Thank you and God Bless you.