Elkanah Odembo ’80

Citation for Elkanah Odembo, 2010 Common Good Award recipient.

"Elkanah Odembo of the Class of 1980, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kenya to France, Portugal, Serbia, and the Holy See, you embody the spirit of the Common Good through a life dedicated to improving the lives of others – in your native Kenya, across Africa, and throughout the world.  Seldom has a student arrived on the Bowdoin campus in possession of such a clear vision of how a liberal arts education could bring about meaningful changes in the human condition.  A biology major and a member of the soccer team, you were awarded the Andrew A. Haldane Cup at Commencement as the member of the senior class with "outstanding qualities of leadership and character." 

Ever mindful of the issues of poverty and health in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa, you earned a master of public health degree at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston in 1983.  Over the past twenty-seven years you have worked tirelessly to improve primary care and establish community-based health systems through the African Medical and Research Foundation, World Neighbours,  the Ford Foundation's African Philanthropy Initiative, and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper in Kenya.  As founder and executive director of the Ufadhili Trust you have brought to bear the power of local philanthropy, local resource mobilization, and partnerships between government and nongovernmental organizations to reduce poverty in Africa.  You have shared your expertise and knowledge on a world stage, taking you throughout Africa and to Europe, South Asia, Southeast Asia, North America, and Central America.  In 2009 you added an official ambassador's title to your remarkable record of public service, confirming what we already knew – that you have always been an "Ambassador Extraordinary" and an inspiration to us all.

We are proud to share this day with your family, your classmates, faculty and staff, and special guests who have been inspired by the example of your life over the years. On behalf of the Board of Trustees I am proud to present to you the 2010 Common Good Award."

June 5, 2010