Former Liberian Head of State Named Boston University’s African President-in-Residence
Ruth Sando Perry, the only female African head of state in modern times, has been appointed the next Balfour African President-in-Residence at Boston University’s African Presidential Archives and Research Center (APARC). A former legislator, teacher and bank executive, she served in 1996 and 1997 as chairperson of the Council of the Republic of Liberia, which guided the country from a seven-year civil war to democracy.
Founded by a grant from the Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation, which is administered by trustee Fleet National Bank, the residency enables democratically elected former African leaders to spend up to two years at Boston University sharing insights on the their countries and on contemporary trends in Africa. BU’s first African president-in-residence, appointed in 2002, was Kenneth Kanuda of Zambia.
“Madam Perry’s appointment provides a unique window of opportunity to see and understand the problems of African countries in crisis and to better understand what the United States and other Western nations can do to enable these countries to move from crisis to stability,” said Charles Stith, director of APARC and former U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania. “Even more importantly, her appointment enables us to understand what we can do to prevent the spirals of decline from occurring.”
As Balfour President-in-Residence, Perry can help scholars and policy-makers reflect on how Liberia’s democracy decayed under President Charles Taylor, who was exiled to Nigeria last year with Liberia placed under a United Nations peacekeeping mandate.
A widow with seven children, Perry, 64, earned a teaching degree from the University of Liberia, was a supervisor at the Chase Manhattan Bank of Liberia, and served as an independent senator in the one-party legislature of the West African nation founded by freed American slaves. As a grandmother, she was elected to head Liberia’s National Transitional Government after President Samuel Doe’s assassination in 1996 and served until Taylor’s election.
“I am delighted to be at Boston University, such a prestigious and well-renowned institution,” Perry said. “I extend my sincere thanks to Boston University and the African Presidential Archives and Research Center for extending the very high honor of being named as the second Balfour African President-in-Residence and the opportunity to share my reflections with the great people of America and this university on the contemporary trends and developments of my region. I hope my tenure will mark a new turn for the better in African and American relations. I am proud and my family is proud.”
APARC was established to complement BU’s African Studies Program — one of the nation’s oldest, established in 1953, as a resource for fostering efforts at democratization and free-market reform in Africa. In addition to hosting African former heads of state, it also serves as a repository for the documents of democratically elected African leaders, and organizes lecture series, academic conferences and a visiting professors program.
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