By the time our paths crossed some twenty-two years ago at the University of Ghana, Legon, Prof. Gyekye’s place among the top-tier of Africa’s globally recognized philosophers was indubitable.
Among other things, his works had already been published internationally and he had served his time as a Fellow of the Smithsonian Institution’s hallowed Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C., USA.
Prof. Gyekye’s lectures remain some of the most intellectually stimulating moments of my life. He opened the valves of my reasoning and filled me with an immeasurable desire to be among the best and brightest of my time.
There were playful moments in class when he would throw the last piece of chalk in his hands down the aisle with the unfailing accompaniment of the words: “none of you can go to Harvard…none”!
After my first degree in political science with philosophy, I implored him to write a recommendation for me to study at the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, Legon.
When he saw that I had made so many grade As during my undergraduate studies he asked me to come back the following week to give him time to confirm the authenticity of my transcript of academic record.
I recall him saying something to the effect that he would dig up some of the exam scripts to confirm his own award of grade As in the courses he had taught me.
When I went back the following week as agreed, he said, “young man, go and get ready for the Faculty of Law. I have verified everything and I will send the letter of recommendation to the Faculty myself”.
Eleven years later, I went back to him with a request for another letter of recommendation this time to Harvard University, for a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree in Corporate Law. Prof. readily agreed to serve as one of my three recommenders.
Months later, when I shared with him the news of my admission to Harvard, the university from which he had graduated with a Ph.D in 1969, he said, “of course, I knew they’d admit you”.
When I retuned home after my studies, Prof. and I developed a friendship that left me wondering what accounted for such a privilege.
He would always ask about my wife who served him at the bank as well as my children. When my last son turned one, his wife gave him his first tie and vest with a shirt and a pair of trousers to go with it.
Our long conversations on the porch of his residence were moments to cherish as we discussed anything and everything from politics to Mercedes Benz cars.
Since my father had served as editor of the Daily Graphic and Prof. had been board chairman of the corporation some years later, the newspaper sometimes featured in our conversations.
There were times when his wife, the motherly and affable Mrs. Joana Dedo Gyekye (nee Mate-Kole) would sit with us at the table of conversation.
In the process, his daughter Mimi, who was some years my senior at Achimota became my friend.
I was truly honoured when Prof. visited my office unannounced. Sadly, I was absent. It always gave me such pleasure whenever he chose me to provide him with legal services knowing that he was spoilt for choice.
I will not find the words to describe his excitement when I gave him two Harvard tee shirts. He held on to them as though they contained the love of his life.
Prof., the copies of your books which you autographed for me, especially the Ghana@50 lectures which you coordinated and edited as well as your inaugural lecture which you published into a book are two of my most prized possessions.
Over the span of almost eight decades, you lived an illustrious, fulfilled, accomplished, exemplary and path-breaking existence worthy of adulation.
Rest in peace, Harvard Man!!!
Author: Robert Nii Arday Clegg (Managing Partner, Nii Arday Clegg & Co.)