Illini Everywhere: Ugandan Illini, Since 1964

Since at least 1964, Ugandan students have been attending the University of Illinois. Early Ugandan Illini have included agricultural economists, educators, engineers, food scientists, lawyers, librarians, student leaders, university faculty, and women’s studies scholars too.

Read on to learn more about early Ugandan Illini!

Illinois – Uganda Connections

As early as 1932, Botany Professor and Tropical Mycologist Frank Lincoln Stevens received Ugandan fungi samples to analyze for the Imperial Mycological Institute of the Kew Botannical Gardens of London. After analysis, Dr. Stevens donated the specimens to the University Herbarium‘s collections. By 1955, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology applied for a Ford Foundation grant to fund a three-year study of westernization in multiple Latin American, Caribbean, Pacific, and African countries including Uganda. [1] In December 1960, Dr. Alphonso A. Castagno came to campus to give two talks: “The Dynamics of Change in African Nations” and “The Responsibility of the U.N. in Africa”. On November 6, 1965, Makerere Medical School Department of Pediatrics and Child Heath Doctor Derrick B. Jelliffee have a talk “The Ecology of Child Health in East Africa” for the Center for Human Ecology. Just thirteen days later, on November 19, 1965, in the Illini Union, Ugandan-born Greek-educated Orthodox missionary (future Metropolitan of the Archdiocese of Kampala and all Uganda) and then headmaster of Orthodox Primary and Secondary School in Kampala, Theodore Nankyamas gave a public talk about Orthodox missionary work in Uganda. In 1967, an Ugandan graduate student in Agronomy was corresponding with a Daily Illini writer about U.S. culture and politics, and at least one conversation was published in the DI.

The next thirty years continue strong too. In April 1971, it was announced that Nigerian-born Dr. Victor Uchendu would come to Illinois as the new Director of African Studies, following his work as Director of the Institute of Social Research at Makerere University in Kampala. The next spring, on March 14, 1972, Makerere University Political Science Lecturer A G G Gincyera-Pinycwa gave a campus talk, “Politics in Uganda: The Obote Years” concerning the former Prime Minister and former President of Uganda A. Milton Obote. In April 1974, there was a screening of the National Audubon Society “Upcountry Uganda”, and in October, Dr. Uchendu gave a campus talk “The Economic War in Uganda: A Success That Failed”. In 1983, Sociology Assistant Professor Stephen G. Bunker was appointed a fellow in the Center for Advanced Study to prepare a monograph analyzing the ways peasant farmers had historically influenced agricultural and rural development in Uganda. [2] Meanwhile, as campus conversations on African developed and grew, Ugandan student enrollment was also on rise.


At least as early as the 1960s, Ugandan students have been enrolling at the University of Illinois. In April of 1964, at a campus conference on Africa, which was jointly organized by the African Students Organization and the Association of International Students, Zabaloni Kabaza lead an analytical discussion on East African politics. In April of 1965, the African Students Organization and the off-campus University YMCA organized the African International Supper event, with the theme “Africa in Transition”. The event included many students from different African countries including Ugandan Illini Gael Kiwuwa. While in 1969, tragically, engineering student Paul M. Lukindu, of Masaka, was fatally wounded while driving his car off-campus.

Of course there were graduate students. Some early graduate Ugandan Illini have included: James C.O. Nyankori, (PhD Agricultural Economics, 1977); Consolata Kabonesa (M.S. Human Resources and Family Studies, 1994; PhD Human and Community Development, 1998); Mike O. Ogwal (PhD, Food Science, 1995); Fredrick K. Lugya (M.S. Library and Information Science, 2010; PhD, Library and Information Science, 2016); and Anthony C.K. Kakooza (J.S.D. Law, 2014).

Although documentation of Ugandan Illini after the is limited, student enrollment figures document that Ugandan Illini enrollment has continued since the 1960s and hopefully for longer too.

Are you an Ugandan Illini? Do you know someone who is? We’d like to hear from you! Please send us a message or leave a comment below. We want to include you and your story, as we celebrate the first 150 years of the University of Illinois.

Happy First 150 everyone!

(A special thank you to the officers and members of the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 African Students Organization who invited me to their meetings and events, while supporting the development of this story and for sharing their stories too.)


[] As always, a special thank you to all students and staff whose tireless work for student life and publications (many of which are available at the University Archives) help preserve the memories of Illini everywhere.

[1] Meeting of the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, July 20, 1955, page 457, Record Series 1/1/802; May 22, 1956, page 1058.

[2] May 19, 1983, page 229.

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