THE DALLAS/FORT WORTH BRANCH – The Journey So Far
In The Beginning
The first alumni association of our great institution on US soil started in Houston in 1999 when a small group of 3 Houston-based friends (call them the three Musketeers), at the persistent prodding of one of them, Mr. Eddy Olafeso (ex-President of Student Union), decided it was high time they sought out other Great Ife alumni within their domain and establish a medium through which the human, intellectual and material resources of alumni in Diaspora could be harnessed to positively impact the society they currently live in, the society from whence they came, and our esteemed Alma Mater in particular. This resulted in the eventual formal formation of the Houston Chapter, now Branch, which played host to the first 3 International Reunions of Great Ife Alumni outside of Nigeria.
The Dallas/Fort-Worth Chapter is Born!!
While Houston was thriving, Eddy Olafeso made frantic efforts to get the Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) branch started, visiting Dallas and linking Deolu Esho up with Obinna Duruji (ex-PRO of Student Union who was then resident in Dallas) but this association ended before it started because Duruji had to return home to serve as Commissioner in his State Government. In parallel, Deolu Esho and Remi Jetawo ran into each other severally and forming a local alumni association was always the highlight of their discussions. Mrs. Deola Soyombo, who took over as President when Eddy relocated to Nigeria also did her very best to link known Dallas alumni together in order to get the magic started in DFW.
The DFW branch was officially chartered at the 3rd Biennial International Reunion in Houston in September of 2004 during which it was charged with the arduous responsibility of hosting the next International Reunion in a couple of years. This task looked daunting since there was really no organization on the ground at that time in Dallas coupled with the fact that only two alumni from Dallas area, total strangers to each other, were in attendance at the event. The two individuals were: Deolu Esho and Kunle Tometi.
With a Charter in hand, it took the concerted efforts of 3 individuals: Deolu Esho, Remi Jetawo and Kunle Tometi, holding their first Strategy Meeting on December 4, 2004 at the Jetawo's residence, then they kicked off the first general meeting a week later at the Tometi's residence. Eight local alumni were in attendance during that inaugural meeting on December 11, 2004. The then Houston Branch President and Vice President were also present to witness the birth of the newest Great Ife Alumni Branch in the US. From that moment, the DFW branch has been in overdrive.
To celebrate the first anniversary of existence, in December 2005 the DFW branch organized a successful fundraiser amongst local friends, proceeds of which were remitted to our Alma Mater for the complete renovation of the front building of the Campus Health Center and the inner corridors of the rear building. This was a feat we are extremely proud of considering the students had started referring to the Health Center as “Campus Death Center”.
Immediately following the fundraising event, members of the DFW branch began in earnest to put in place the necessary plans for the successful execution of the 4th Biennial International Reunion taking place within nine months. With the hard work of all members, guidance of the pioneer branch (Houston) and unwavering dedication of the arrow-heads of the Reunion Planning Committee under the leadership of Dolapo Ajayi, a memorable International Reunion with the theme “Back to Road One: Gateway to Excellence” took place during the Labor Day weekend in 2006. Since then, the branch has been unstoppable.
Working to support a humanitarian project initiated by one of its members, the DFW branch facilitated the donation of few moderately-used Dialysis equipment to the OAU Teaching Hospital in Ile-Ife which was used to part-equip the new Renal Center. The branch also sponsored the visit of a team of technicians from the US to refurbish the equipment on the campus.
The plight of disadvantaged students being a major area of concern to majority of the DFW members, a decision was made to institute need-based annual Scholarship Awards to outstanding students of our Alma Mater. The modalities of such awards was worked out through the Professor Segun Foundation, based in Nigeria which already had a well-structured process of sourcing lists of needy students. In the past three years the branch has awarded 4 scholarships annually but in the current academic session we were able to secure funding from our members to sponsor even more scholarships. Other activities of the DFW branch include annual volunteer work at the Salvation Army Homeless Shelter, Charity donations to Children Medical Centers as well as to Homeless Shelters, and Mentorship to youth in the community. In addition, the branch made donations to orphanages in Nigeria and continues to look for opportunities to be of blessing to people in need.
The DFW branch is waxing stronger daily and becoming a well-known gathering of respectable members of the community. We currently have over 120 members in the local database about 45 of whom are very active in the association. The branch is uniquely blessed with members that are very comfortable in the company of one another, and always look forward to the monthly meetings and other locally organized activities. Members get together to discuss ways to impact the lives of current pool of students lucky enough to attend Great Ife, and reminisce on their own days in that great citadel of learning. Membership composition cuts across generations; from those that matriculated in the 1960s and the newer generations that matriculated in the 2000s. The branch is truly blessed.
President, Dallas Branch