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Office of the Provost sadly announces passing of Dr. Isaac Agboola, ’81 & G-’83

Office of the Provost sadly announces passing of Dr. Isaac Agboola, ’81 & G-’83

February 23, 2017

 Dear Campus Community:

 I am heartbroken to announce that Dr. Isaac O. Agboola, Dean of the School of Education, Business, and Human Services, passed away on Wednesday, February 22, at the age of 60. He had gone on medical leave just two weeks ago, on February 9th. With his passing, the University, the Deaf community, and the international Deaf community has lost a veritable icon.

 Isaac Olubunmi Agboola was born in Nigeria. As a young deaf person, he was heavily influenced by Dr. Andrew J. Foster, ’54 & H-’70, who founded 31 deaf schools across the African continent. Dr. Agboola first met Foster in 1971 while attending the Ibadan Mission School for the Deaf (IMSD) in Nigeria. He also worked in Dr. Foster’s mission office in Ibadan as an administrative clerk, describing this as “inspiring” since he sat two seats away. “The opportunity to attend [Dr. Foster’s] school enabled me to resume my education. It is highly unlikely that I would have achieved as much as I have if he had not established a mission school in Nigeria,” said Agboola at the time.

 Dr. Agboola came to Gallaudet in the fall of 1978, and completed his bachelor’s degree in three years, graduating summa cum laude in 1981. He went on to earn a Master of Business Administration degree at Gallaudet in 1983, and his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Information Systems at the University of Maryland, College Park in 1998.

 Dr. Agboola joined the University faculty in the Department of Business in 1984. He served as department chair from 2003 to 2007. In 2007, he was appointed Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Sciences, and Technologies (CLAST), and served in that role until being named Interim Dean of the newly-created School of Education, Business, and Human Services (SEBHS) in 2013, and permanent Dean in 2016. He had a long, distinguished history as a faculty member and dean. He led or participated in several strategic planning efforts and accreditation reviews, and led curriculum reform in the business disciplines, including what is now the Information Technology major in the Department of Science, Technology, and Mathematics. Most recently, he was involved in the creation of our new Risk Management and Insurance major. He also was instrumental in the transformation of our general education program to a formal, more intentional, outcomes-based General Studies Program.

 Dr. Agboola was principal investigator for several grant-funded projects, including a grant from the Microsoft Foundation to develop a computer training program for deaf and hard of hearing students, and a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Business and International Education Program to internationalize our business curriculum. He was also co-principal investigator, in collaboration with partners at George Washington University, Marymount University, and the University of the District of Columbia, of a National Science Foundation planning grant to increase the number of underrepresented minorities (URM) in graduate STEM disciplines.

 In the community, Dr. Agboola served on the Board of Directors of the American School for the Deaf (ASD) from 2008 to 2014. He was a current member of the ASD Board of Corporators. Dr. Agboola was a former board member and treasurer of the Gallaudet University Alumni Association, and a member and secretary of the Maryland Governor’s Advisory Board for Telecommunications Relay. He also served as workshop chair for three National Black Deaf Advocates national conferences, and as co-chair of the Linwood Smith Scholarship Committee.

 Writes Dr. Joseph G. Kinner, retired history and General Studies professor: “My dear, dear friend Isaac Agboola has passed away. I feel sadness, of course, and I will miss him greatly. He was my friend, he was my dean, he was my colleague, and I loved the man. Chinua Achebe, in his great novel Things Fall Apart, shares with us this proverb: “He who brings kola brings life.” Isaac always brought kola. Isaac was much loved and will always be remembered. He was a strong, brave, and courageous man. I will miss his warm smile and intelligent and unwavering fairness.”

 Dr. Genie Gertz succeeded Dr. Agboola as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and worked alongside him for nearly four years when he became Dean of SEBHS. She writes, “I am deeply saddened and devastated by Dr. Isaac Agboola’s passing. It was an honor and a privilege to have worked alongside this wonderful person as deans of our respective schools. Dr. Agboola was a gentle soul and a man of the highest integrity. He was someone for whom I had eternal respect. I was proud to consider him a wonderful colleague, comrade, and friend! Soar high and rest in peace, Isaac. You have left your eternal mark on all of us, and will be greatly missed.”

 Arlene Ngalle, a 2016 graduate who now works for Convo Relay, remembers meeting Dr. Agboola several years ago and asking him to sign a leave of absence form. He said to her, “I will sign this form only if you promise to come back.” In a Facebook post, Ms. Ngalle wrote, “I enjoyed every visit to your office and learned things about how you overcame adversity as a Nigerian man in America. You taught me and inspired me to work hard and never give up, and told me that there is always another door for me to open. Thank you for always believing in me and supporting me – especially when you talked to my mother about me behind my back to ensure that I had support.”

 Other students posting on Facebook and other social media sites recalled similar heart-to-heart talks with Dr. Agboola, not just about academics but about life. He was especially nurturing of the University’s international students, drawing upon his own experience.

 Dr. Agboola and I worked together as colleagues since 2007 when we were named interim deans of the College of Liberal Arts, Sciences, and Technologies and the Graduate School and Professional Programs respectively. He was devoted to Gallaudet and to our students, and was, in many ways, far ahead of the times, forecasting trends in his field of information technology and in pedagogy; always thinking how we could best prepare our students for their future lives and careers. He was, as both Dr. Kinner and Dr. Gertz wrote above, a person of high moral fiber.   He was a scholar in every sense of the word, and a gifted writer and presenter. Everyone who knew him will remember his broad smile and how merrily he laughed; how he could appear stern one moment and self-deprecating the next. Dean Agboola was one of the finest individuals I have ever known. We have lost a friend, a colleague, a teacher, a leader, and a devoted alumnus of Gallaudet.

 Dr. Agboola is survived by his mother, Comfort; his wife, Jumoke; and four daughters, Julie, Elizabeth, Michelle, and Linda Agboola.

 Please join me in remembering Dr. Agboola, and in sending his family our heartfelt condolences. Information about services will be shared as soon as it is available.


Carol J. Erting

Posted by Phil Dignan | Posted February 23, 2017 at 7:26 AM


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