Plenyono Gbe Wolo
By Charles F. Wordsworth
This year, June 21, 2010, marks the ninety-third anniversary of Plenyono Gbe Wolo's graduation from Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. There were approximately four hundred and sixty-eight students in the graduating class of 1917; Pleyeno Gbe Wolo was the only African in the class. A classmate of Wolo, Archibald Bullock Roosevelt, son of President Theodore Roosevelt, went on to have a stellar military career. Some of Wolo's other classmates were Ronald Martin Foster, one of two students who graduated Summa Cum Laude, the other being Hugo Radolf Schmitt; Foster went on to become a renowned mathematician, educator, scientist and inventor. Three other classmates, John Edward Parson Morgan, Robert Baldwin, and Charles Douglas, were the only Magna Cum Laude graduates. There are streets named in honor of some of Wolo's classmates in Boston, Massachusetts.
To honor this great son of Liberia on the occassion of his ninety-third annivesary of his graduation from Harvard University, I have decided to republish this brief article. I hope this will inspire the youths of Liberia, especially those residing in the remotest villages of Liberia. This is a clear manifestation that if educational opportunities are given to our youths, no matter where they come from, regardless of who their parents are, they too can achieve greatness and contribute to the development of their society. Thomas Jefferson once said: "Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.
Plenyono Gbe Wolo, educator, theologian, lawyer, was a man of extraordinary academic ability and talents. He is said to be one of the first Africans and the first Liberian national to graduate from Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. During his period of study in the United States, he was well distinguished both academically and professionally.
Plenyono Gbe Wolo was born in c. 1883, in Grandcess, Kru Coast Territory, Liberia. In his early life he exhibited evidence of superb intelligence. Based on his demonstrated abilities and through missionary connections, he was fortunate to secure the opportunity to pursue studies in United States of America. He entered Harvard in 1914, and graduated with a B.A degree in 1917. He matriculated to Columbia University in New York where he obtained a M.A. degree in 1919. He also studied at the Union Theological Seminary, New York, and graduated with a degree in Divinity in 1922.
Upon returning to Liberia, Wolo became a professor at Liberia College and taught theology, political, moral and intellectual philosophy for many years. He also studied law and was admitted to the the Bar of the Supreme Court of Liberia. He practiced law until his death in Monrovia on June 2, 1940. Professor Wolo served his country diligently and contributed immensely to the educational and social development of Liberia. Let us not forget, as Lord McCaulay reminds us that "a people which take no pride in the noble achievements of remote ancestors, will never achieve anything worthy to be remembered with pride by remote descendants."
Author's note: Charles F. Wordsworth
B.S. 1979 Cuttington University
M.A. 1985 The George Washington University
Attended Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law,University of Liberia (1981-1983)
Former member of the Liberian National Baskeball Team
Taught schools in New York, North Carolina and Washington, D.C.
Former High School Principal in Washington, D.C.
Resides in Manassas, Virginia