“Ah, that is a library destroyed by the fire of death.”
This was the phrase used by G.G. Darah, Professor of English at Delta State University, Abraka, and President of Nigeria Oral Literature Association (NOLA) to react to the death of foremost literary icon and award winning novelist, Professor Isidore Okpewho, in a Binghamton Hospital on September 4, 2016.
His death as announced by Canada-based professor in Carleton University, Nduka Otiono, quoting family sources, said the distinguished Professor at State University of New York, Binghamton, passed away surrounded by family members.”
“We will miss his charming presence, warm-heartedness, and wise guidance,” said a member of the family last night in Binghamton, New York, adding: “But we are consoled by the great life he lived, the many lives he touched beyond the nuclear family, and the remarkable intellectual legacy he left behind.”
Professor Isidore Okpewho, born on November 9, 1941 was a native of Agbor, Delta State, Nigeria. From an early age, it was clear he had a knack for studies. His educational progress was quite steady , first at St. Patrick’s College, Asaba, then the University College, Ibadan, for his university education. He made his mark as a studious undergraduate and graduated with a First Class Honours in Classics.
His career path was smoothly defined: a stay in the publishing industry with Longman Publishers and then as an academic after obtaining his PhD from the University of Denver, USA. He also had a certification with a D.Litt from University of London.
Professor Isidore Okpewho, was the quintessential lecturer, making profound impact at institutions he taught such as the University of New York, Buffalo (1974-76), University of Ibadan (1976-90), Harvard University (1990-91), and State University of New York at Binghamton.
Professor Okpewho was also an award winning novelist. In 1976, he won the African Arts Prize for Literature and in 1993, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best Book Africa. His books are also a staple and his four novels, The Victims, The Last Duty, Tides,and Call me by my Rightful Name are a common fixture of recommended materials widely used in Africa and other continents.
His two earliest seminal academic monographs, The Epic in Africa: Toward a poetics of the Oral Performance ( 1979) and Myth in Africa: A study of its Aesthetics and Cultural Relevance ( 1983) was the catalyst that instituted him as a first rate scholar and pioneer of Oral Literature in Africa.
Prof. Okpewho is survived by his wife, Mrs. Obiageli Okpewho; his children: Ediru, Ugo, Afigo, and Onome, as well as members of his extended family.
A peek into some social media accounts shows that Professor Isidore Okpeho would not be easily forgotten; either as a lecturer, or a family man
Isidore Okpewho was a fine teacher and mentor to many, including me. Equally at ease as critic and creative writer. Rest well, Prof.
Oh my God! Isidore Okpewho has passed on?Sad…his The Victims is a seminal work on polygamy! Who hasn’t read that?