Story posted April 14, 2010
Ambassador Elkanah Odembo, a member of the Bowdoin College Class of 1980, has dedicated his career to improving the life of others through his work bringing development to the rural and underprivileged in society.
For his tireless efforts, Odembo has been selected by the Bowdoin College Board of Trustees to receive the 2010 Common Good Award.
Established on the occasion of the Bowdoin College Bicentennial, the Common Good Award honors those alumni who have demonstrated an extraordinary, profound and sustained commitment to the common good, in the interest of society, with conspicuous disregard for personal gain in wealth or status.
Odembo, appointed Ambassador of the Republic of Kenya to France in January 2009, is the founding director of Ufadhili Trust (Centre for Philanthropy and Social Responsibility), a Kenyan institution that seeks to promote the spirit of giving, philanthropy and the use of local resources to improve people's lives through corporate social responsibility, cross-sector partnership, technical assistance and policy research.
Prior to joining Ufadhili, Odembo served as a consultant to the Ford Foundation's Coordinator of Africa Philanthropy Initiative; the East Africa Representative for World Neighbors; and as Research Officer for the African Medical Research Foundation. He was also Chairman of the Kenya Community Development Foundation, lead facilitator for the Kenya Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper Consultation Process and a member of the selection committee for the UNDP Africa 2000 Project. He was also a founding member of the NGO Coalition for East Africa, a member of the National Advisory Committee for Health Research, a member of the NGO Co-ordination Board of Kenya, Chairperson of the Kenya National Council of Non-Governmental Organizations and member of the National Committee for Social Dimensions of Development.
Odembo is a Senior Fellow at the Synergos Institute, a non-profit organization based in New York with a mission of reducing global poverty through partnerships that bring together government, business, civil society and local communities. He is also a Fellow of the Africa Leadership Initiative, a program of the Aspen Institute's Global Leadership Network.
Odembo at Bowdoin
A biology major and a member of the soccer team, Odembo was awarded the Andrew A. Haldane Cup at Commencement as the member of the senior class with "outstanding qualities of leadership and character."
He also served as co-chair of the Foreign Students Association and was awarded an O'Brien Graduate Scholarship to pursue advanced studies in public health.
After earning his master of public health degree at the University of Texas, Odembo initially returned to Nairobi to work in the Community Health Division of the African Medical Research Foundation.
Odembo lives in Paris, France, with his wife Aoko Midiwo-Odembo. The couple has two children.
The Common Good Award will be presented Saturday, June 5, 2010, during Reunion Convocation.
About the Common Good Award
Common Good Award recipients personify the idea of the common good as set forth by Bowdoin's first president, Joseph McKeen. In his inaugural address on September 2, 1802, McKeen reminded his audience that, "It ought always to be remembered that literary institutions are founded and endowed for the common good and not for the private advantage of those who resort to them for education. It is not that they may be able to pass through life in an easy and reputable manner, but that their mental powers may be cultivated and improved for the benefit of society."