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University Hosts Farewell Event for VC Tagwira

Even during his toughest days as Vice Chancellor of Africa University, Dr. Fanuel Tagwira exhibited a faith-inspired optimism and his passion for the student experience was evident in every decision. Professor Fanuel Tagwira, a pioneer faculty member, served as vice chancellor for five years.

“Professor Tagwira is a true leader who… could always see the rainbow over the horizon which no one else could see,” said Mrs. Grace Muradzikwa, Board secretary and chairperson of the leadership transition committee.

“He served the University community during a very difficult time and his ever-smiling face gave hope to many,” said Muradzikwa.

Tagwira, a pioneer faculty member and expert in soil chemistry, joined Africa University to help launch the Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources in 1992. He taught Dr. Walter Suza in those early years and left an enduring impression.

Dr. Walter Suza, 1996 graduate of the school of agriculture at AU."Professor Tagwira is one of the best teachers I have known,” said Suza, who is now an adjunct professor of Agronomy at Iowa State University.  “He was a source of my inspiration to obtain a graduate education and work in academia."

Tagwira rose to professorial rank and served as dean of the agriculture faculty for five years. He took the helm as Interim Vice Chancellor of Africa University in January 2008 and was formally elected to the role in April 2009.

At the time, Zimbabwe was in the midst of an unprecedented economic downturn. Inflation had risen to more than 500 million percent, rendering the Zimbabwe dollar virtually worthless. The country adopted the U.S. dollar and South African Rand to replace its currency. Basics such as food, electricity and water became scarce and professionals left the country in droves. 

Mr. James Salley, the university’s chief advancement officer, notes that Tagwira worked tirelessly and kept Africa University open while other universities in the country shut their doors. Most families were strapped for cash and the university was faced with the prospect that hundreds of its students would drop out. Under Tagwira's leadership, Africa University implemented a plan that allowed families to pay fees using livestock, staples like corn and wheat, and even fertilizer.

“Very few people have any idea or knowledge of what it took from him to maintain an institution operating every day, putting three meals on the table in the dining hall, and having employees never miss a pay check, during the darkest hours of the economy of Zimbabwe,” said Salley.

“He is committed and has a passion for education and young people and that is evident in what he and Margaret (his wife) have done with their family as well as with extended families, orphans in the community and our students,” Salley added.  “I am overjoyed that our friendship and working relationship that goes back 22 years will continue.”

A community appreciation and farewell event for Dr. Tagwira is scheduled for June 6th in Mutare, Zimbabwe. His last official function as Vice Chancellor is the 2014 Graduation Ceremony, which takes place on June 7th. The incoming vice chancellor, Dr. Munashe Furusa will assume office on July 1st.