Dr. Beverlee Bruce: A True Friend Of Liberia

By George H. Nubo

When we saw images of Liberians in 1996, scrambling to board ships with no nation willing to take them in, most Liberians, friends of Liberia, and philanthropic organizations were all desirous to help. Many had the wherewithal but could not find a way to channel their assistance to reach the struggling Liberians made homeless by the war. Some people, however were able to make their way to West Africa just to help. One of such persons is Dr. Beverlee Bruce.

She worked in Liberia for several years as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and later as Director of Peace Corps in Liberia. She also served as Chief Technical Director of United Nations Development Project at which time she traveled mostly on foot from village to village helping Liberians. Under Dr. Bruce, UNDP built schools, clinics, roads, and drilled wells for villages in South Eastern Liberia where Dr. Bruce was assigned. The advent of the civil conflict did not discourage her. During the war, she traveled to Sierra Leone, Guinea, and the Ivory Coast trying to assist and trying to make a lasting difference. Dr. Bruce chairs the Women's Commission for Refugee Women, and Children and in that capacity she is on the Board of the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

In June, 1996, Dr. Bruce participated on an IRC board delegation to West Africa. The IRC education program in Guinea was very impressive, and a member of the delegation suggested that the two of them think of ways to help. The delegate is on the Board of Trustees at Marymount Manhattan College in New York. At the time, she was director of the Mellon Migration Seminars Project housed at Clark Atlanta University's School of International Affairs and Development. The project was designed to inform African American students at selected Historical Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) about refugees and to encourage them to think about careers in which they could provide assistance. Consequently, they decided that Marymount and a HBCU would be approached to admit the students who were selected on the basis of merit. Some 1,200 students participated in the selection process and 7 made it. Disappointingly, there was only one girl who applied and her application was incomplete. In any event, the young men were exceptional.

Five were admitted at Morehouse, while Marymount Manhattan College enrolled two. The guys came last February and have not had an easy time of it. However, they have done very well. They arrived too late to enroll for the Spring semester but they took preparatory courses in Math, English and Computers and did well. They also did exceptionally well in Summer School and during the Fall semester.

The Liberian students are: Alfind Howard, Nathaniel Kessee and Zina Mulbah majoring in Computer Science, Business Administration/Accounting and Biology /Pre-Med/Public Health. The Sierra Leoneans are Sankara Kamara, History and Political Science and Mohammad Jallah, Engineering.

Since their arrival, help has been forthcoming from many Liberians and friends of Liberia. Dr. Augustine Konneh, Professor of History at Morehouse College, saw to it that they were admitted and got their 1-20's. Dr. Bruce was able to write a convincing letter to the U.S. Consulate in Guinea and they were granted visas. Doris Railey, her assistant with the Migration Seminars Project found a house where the landlords have adopted them as their sons. The Martins have helped with food, clothes, and money for books. The only problem has been that the person who agreed to find a church to support each of the students has failed to follow through.

Despite the tremendous support and encouragement, the students are still in desperate need of continued help to sustain their educational success, according to Dr. Bruce. By and through her personal initiative, Dr. Bruce has raised about $30,000 for their support: rent $1000.00 per month, and a weekly stipend of $500.00 ($100.00 each). But this is still not adequate to sustain them throughout the entire period of their program.

Dr. Bruce worked at the Clark-Atlanta University as a part-time consultant. She had anticipated using the monies from her Atlanta consultancy to support the students. However, the Dean of the school fired her ­ saying she couldn't work full time and do the consultancy, though the President at the council and program officer at the Mellon Foundation who funded the project for which Dr. Bruce wrote the proposal had agreed with her that she could. But this has not discouraged or weakened her commitment.

As a true Liberianist, both by words and deeds, Dr. Bruce is quite determined to see these students succeed in their educational endeavors. She, however, cannot do this alone giving her own limitations, including personal obligations. She, therefore, needs many helping hands. That is why continued financial or material support is needed to ensure that these students remain in school.


Dr. Bruce can be reached at:
Social Science Research Council
810 Seventh Ave. 31st Floor
New York, New York 10019

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