Professor Timothy Oyebode Olagbemiro was born in Jos, Plateau State to the family of the richest Ogbomoso Man at that time, Chief David Oyeniran Olagbemiro.
He had his elementary, secondary and university education in Baptist schools both in Nigeria and the United States of America, between 1954 and 1976. He obtained his Ph.D degree in Chemistry from Howard University, Washington DC, U.S.A. in 1976.He served as a postdoctoral fellow on US National Science Foundation(NSF) Grant at Howard, upon graduation, before taking up a teaching appointment at his alma matter, Fisk University, Nashville Tennessee, USA, as Assistant Professor of Chemistry, on tenured track.
In September, 1977, Professor Olagbemiro joined the Lederle Research Laboratories, American Chemical Company, pearl River New York, USA, before he returned to Nigeria in October, 1978 to join the staff of Chemistry Department, Bayero University, Kano, as Lecturer I. With a dint of hard work, quality research publications in international journals of repute and of high impact, dedication and administrative skills, and within six years of his academic career in Nigeria, Professor Olagbemiro rose in rank to the positions of Senior Lecturer, and Reader to be appointed in 1984, Professor of Chemistry Chemistry, even at the age of 36, at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi.
His over 42 years of work experience spread across industry, university teaching and administration, as well as research both in Nigeria, the U. S. and the U. K. He has served in various capacities as Research Consultant, Research Scientist, Resident Hall Adviser, Head of Department, Dean of Faculty, Dean of Students, Director of Academic Planning, Member of Senate and Council and Acting Vice-Chancellor. He was a former Vice-Chancellor of Bowen University of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, and the former Chairman(2007 to 2013), Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Registrars of Private Universities in Nigeria. Professor Olagbemiro was Vice Chancellor of Bowen University Iwo, Osun State, for a period of 10 years (August 2003, to August 2013).
Professor Olagbemiro in the course of his career, is a recipient of notable international research grants and awards, such as The US National Foundation Science(US NSF) research grant, US Carnegie Research award, British Council Research award, Rothamsted International(RI) Research Fellowship, Third World Academy Science(TWAS) Research Award, and the international Foundation for Science(IFS) Research Award, and The Welcome Trust Research grant, among others. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Chemists of Nigeria, and Fellow, Chemical Society of Nigeria. Professor Olagbemiro is a recipient of the Stetson University, Deland, Florida, USA, Distinguished Alumni Award, a devoted Christian, and a Fellow of the Christian Athlete of America.
Through almost four decades as an educator in Nigeria, Timothy Oyebode Olagbemiro has seen many students ascend to positions of influence in business and government. It is a harvest grown from seeds planted.
Still exhibiting the drive to excel that resulted in a Hatters career goal-scoring record (56 from 1968 to 1971), Olagbemiro has since 2014 been the pioneer Vice-Chancellor at Edwin Clark University in Kiagbodo, Delta State, Nigeria.
Previously, he led Bowen University in Iwo, Osun State, Nigeria, to tenfold student population growth during his decade-long tenure as vice chancellor. Bowen was the first, and is the largest, Baptist university in Africa.
Essentially, Olagbemiro — or The Big O, as he was known during his Stetson playing days — has replaced one success for another, year after year, with a single common component: education. “One vital way you develop a country is through its educational programs,” he says, simply.
Olagbemiro’s sights, however, always have extended broader, even beyond his African homeland.
“Advances in science and technology over the years have transformed the entire world from small entities and enclaves into a global village,” he says. “Knowledge is power, and I want to be one of those that help to contribute my knowledge globally.”
Not that his road to achievement was without potholes. Homesick and lonely arriving in the United States at 18, Olagbemiro struggled at first, finding himself with two D’s and on probation at one stage. Yet, that setback, together with the encouragement received from those who believed in him, eventually spurred him on to the Dean’s List at Stetson.
Returning to Nigeria in 1978, he was appointed one of the country’s youngest-ever full professors of chemistry within six years, receiving several international research grants and awards and being published widely in international science journals.
In his leadership roles, Olagbemiro says he’s extended the same kind of personal care he received at Stetson University to his own students. That includes ensuring each student had his phone number and sometimes eating in the student cafeteria. While at Bowen, he also took his place alongside students in the university’s 450-strong choir.
“Making [students] know they are our future leaders is crucial.”
With a keen memory and a deep appreciation, Olagbemiro credits everyone from presidents and faculty to storekeepers and grounds people for instilling in him a potent blend of academic curiosity, commitment to hard work and concern for others.
Olagbemiro looks back on his Stetson days as the time he “learned to steer the wheel of excellence and hard work” — a two-handed ethos he continues to share with students to this day.He likes joy in seeing Nigerian students develop integrity, transparency, honesty and sincerity of purpose.
A man of both faith and science, who built the world’s largest university chapel while at Bowen, he views his personal belief system as being intertwined with his academic life.
“I have been motivated by the faith I have in God, and the confidence in my ability and striving for excellence developed through the confidence reposed in me at Stetson,” says Olagbemiro, who has been married for 44 years, with children and grandchildren.
“This gave me the leap to believe in myself, just as the Apostle Paul said, ‘I can do all things, through Christ who strengthens me.’”
“It gives me great joy that Nigeria’s future is bright,” Olagbemiro says. “When I see the joy in their faces as they graduate in character and learning, I have hope for Nigeria and Nigerians.”
Professor Timothy O. Olagbemiro is the current and Pioneer Vice-Chancellor of Edwin Clark University, Kiagbodo, Delta State, Nigeria.