Back when women involvement in the academic field was just starting th grow, one woman set herself apart. And she stood out in a field mostly dominated by men back then; Mathematics. The person I’m talking about is none other than the first Nigerian woman to get a doctorate degree, Prof. Grace Alele-Williams.
Prof Alele-Williams, was born December 16, 1932 in Warri, Delta State of Nigeria. She started her academic adventure at the Government School, Warri before moving to Queens College in Lagos. After her secondary school education, she went to study mathematics at the University College of Ibadan (now the University of Ibadan). After completing her undergraduate education, she became a mathematics teacher at Queen’s School, Ede Osun State, from 1954 until 1957. Dissatisfied with her situation at Queen’s School, Alele managed to obtain financial assistance from the Nigerian Head of Service to attend the University of Vermont as a graduate assistant with the goal of becoming a secondary school teacher. Fortunately, she got the opportunity to further her education and in 1963 became Nigeria’s first female doctorate holder when she got her PhD in mathematics education from the University of Chicago.
She then returned to Nigeria to get her first appointment as a Post Doctoral Research Fellow at the Department/ Institute of Education, University of Ibadan, before moving on to lecture at the University of Lagos. There, she became a professor of Mathematics.
Soon after that, she became the first female Vice chancellor in the country when she was appointed as the VC of University of Benin in 1985.
Since her tenure as VC expired in 1991, Grace Alele-Williams has served the country in several capacities. She also became the Vice-President of the World Organization for Early Childhood Education and later President of the Nigerian chapter, among several other appointments. In 1987, a national merit award, the Order Of the Niger (OON) was conferred upon her. She has also won several awards and received endless accolades for her contribution to the development of the educational sector in the country.
She currently resides in Warri, Delta State and is blessed with 5 children and 10 grandchildren.
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