Grace Alele-Williams

Grace Alele-Williams is an educator who made history as the first Nigerian woman to become the head (vice-chancellor) of a Nigerian university, the University of Benin. She was also the first Nigerian woman to receive a doctorate degree. She is a professor of mathematics education.

Early Life: She was born December 16, 1932 to Mr. and Mrs. Alele. Alele-Williams attended Government School, Warri, and Queen’s College, Lagos. She attended the University College (now the University of Ibadan), obtained Master’s degrees from both the University of Vermont (U.S.) and the University of Chicago (U.S.). Her teaching career started at Queen’s School, Ede Osun State, where she was mathematics teacher from 1954 until 1957. She left for the University of Vermont to become a graduate assistant and later assistant professor. Between 1963 and ’65, Alele-Williams was a postdoctoral research fellow, department (and institute) of Education, University of Ibadan from where she was appointed a professor of mathematics at the University of Lagos in 1976.

Achievements: She has held and served in various capacities. By serving in various committees and boards, Alele-Williams has made useful contributions in the development of education in Nigeria. She was chairman of the curriculum review committee, former Bendel State 1973-1979. From 1979 to 1985, she served as chairman of the Lagos State Curriculum Review Committee and Lagos State Examinations Boards. Her hard work paid off as she was conferred with a Doctorate Degree in Comparative Education from the University of Chicago in March 1963. This made history in Nigeria as she was the first Nigerian female to have a Ph.D Degree. Alele-Williams was a member of governing council, UNESCO Institute of Education. She is also a consultant to UNESCO and Institute of International Education Planning. For a decade (1963–73) she was a member of the African Mathematics Programme, located in Newton, Massachusetts, United States. She was also vice-president of the World Organisation for Early Childhood Education and later president of the Nigerian chapter. Alele-Williams has published a book titled Modern Mathematics Handbook for Teachers. After serving as the vice-chancellor of the University of Benin, she joined the board of directors of Chevron-Texaco Nigeria. She is also on the board of HIP Asset Management Company Ltd, an Asset Management Company in Lagos, Nigeria

Legacy: Professor Grace Alele-Williams was a force to reckon with in the dark period for Nigeria’s higher education. Then, the activities of secret cults, confraternities and societies had spread within the Nigerian Universities especially in University of Benin. She made valuable impacts, with combination of courage, ingenuity and strategy that the growing tide of cultism was stemmed in the university. A task which many men had failed, she was able to make notable contributions. She has 5 children and 10 grandchildren.

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