Former Kenyatta University vice chancellor Prof. Olive Mugenda has been referred to as a woman with many hats due to her colourful curriculum vitae and a distinguished leadership nous.
Mugenda was first propelled to the public eye in 2006 when she became the first woman to occupy the vice chancellor seat in the African Great Lakes area. Mugenda’s success during her 10 year stint at Kenyatta University was marked with great infrastructural uplift including the Ksh 1 billion ultra modern library, lecture halls and a morgue.
Here is her story as told by WoK.
Mugenda was born in 1956.
She attended Dry’s Farm Primary School, then proceeded to Alliance Girls’ High School for her secondary education. Mugenda pursued a bachelors of education at University of Nairobi where she was awarded a first class honors.
She then traveled abroad for a Masters of Family Studies (Iowa State University (USA)) and a PhD in the same field. Additionally, she holds a Masters of Business Administration from Eastern and Southern Africa Management Institute (ESAMI) in Arusha, Tanzania.
Olive got married to the late Prof. Abel Mugenda who died on 5th January, 2019 aged 66. Until his death, Abel was a lecturer in statistics and research at USIU.
Even though initial reports indicated that Abel died after short illnesses, it later emerged that he might have leapt to death in what was suspected to be a suicide case.
According to reports published on the Standard, Abel booked into White Rhino Hotel in Nyeri on 2nd January, 2019. He seemed perturbed.
For Three days, he was without company and is reportedly to have breathed his last after falling from the 6th floor in a chilling incident that occurred on the dawn of 5th January, 2019.
On the burial day, Olive described her late husband as a supportive man who never missed a single graduation ceremony in Kenyatta University.
Photo of Olive and her late husband Abel Mugenda
“I am what I am today because of you. It is difficult to believe that our journey from the time we met as teenagers in Thogoto has abruptly ended. We thank God for the family we were blessed with and what we were able to accomplish,” Olive eulogized.
In their 36 years of marriage, they were blessed with 4 children: Albert Gitau, Christopher Nyoike, Angela Wambui and Linda Wambui.
In 1981, Prof. Mugenda began working as a tutorial fellow in Kenyatta University before she went to the USA for further studies. Later, she came back to Kenya and worked as the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Finance Planning & Development) at Kenyatta University.
In 2006, Olive Mugenda raised and set the bar high especially in women leadership when she beat 3 male applicants and got successfully appointed as the vice chancellor of Kenyatta University. Her transformation record while the VC is well documented.
After a 10 year stint, she retired and was offered a Ksh 100 million retirement perk which she declined, saying when she was appointed, her interests were in public service.
“After considerable thought, Prof. Mugenda made the decision to decline the package proposed by the council arguing that when she took over as VC she was discharging her public duties and did not accept the position with a retirement package in mind,” read a statement from Kenyatta University.
Currently, Mugenda is the chairperson of the Board of Directors at the Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital. Additionally, she is a commissioner of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
She was recently appointed as the non-executive chairperson of Housing Finance Group in a move aimed at steering growth and transformation.
She was awarded the Chief of the Order of the Burning Spear (CBS) in 2011 and Elder of Burning Spear (EBS) in 2006. The French Government honored her with Order of Academic Palms (2016) for her efforts in steering university education.