Tribute to Prof. Beatrice Olabimpe Aboyade: Africa’s First Female Academic Doctor in English Literature 

Prof. Beatrice Olabimpe Aboyade
Photo credit: Kunle Ogunfuyi


Yinka Olatunbosun

The announcement was surreal. A Facebook post- a photo reel with music accompaniment -by Ms. Funke Aboyade SAN on March 3, 2023 broke the sad news. Professor Beatrice Olabimpe Aboyade, the first woman in sub-Saharan Africa to obtain a PhD in English Literature, is dead at 87.

A woman of substance, Prof. Aboyade was a Nigerian librarian and retired professor of Library studies at University of Ibadan. Described as a pioneer in Librarianship in Nigeria by the World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services, Aboyade has worked in University of Ibadan and University of Ile-Ife libraries.

Born on August 24, 1935, Aboyade had her primary education at Christ Church Primary School, Porogun, Ijebu Ode. She proceeded to Queen’s College, Lagos, for her secondary education between 1948-51. Between 1952-53, she completed her high school at Queens College, Ede. She got her first degree in English from University of Ibadan in 1960, then obtained further degrees from University of Michigan in 1964. In 1970, she completed her doctorate from Unibadan.

Reportedly, Aboyade did not immediately become a librarian, but spent a short time at the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation before she joined the University of Ibadan library as an Assistant librarian in 1962. Later, she took on a new role as chief cataloger at the University of Ife in 1965. Three years later, she returned to the University of Ibadan to lead their Reader Services. In 1972, she began to teach there when she became a University lecturer in the library science department.

In 1978, she was promoted from senior lecturer when she was made a Professor of Library Studies at University of Ibadan. Afterwards, she served as head of department of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the university.She also ran the Rural Development Information System (RUDIS), which increased information access to rural people in Africa.

Her work with RUDIS revealed that Nigerian rural libraries primarily served a functional requirement. The library books were used to show how to improve utilities such as roads, electricity, finance and piped water and inform the public on non local employment opportunities as well as fertilisers and trading opportunities.

She was married to Professor Ojetunji Aboyade, a revered economist, distinguished scholar of international repute and a gifted administrator, until his death in 1994.

Their union is blessed with four children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Her daughter, Ms. Olufunke Aboyade, is a prominent lawyer, pioneer Editor, THISDAY LAWYER and Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN.

Notable among some of her contemporaries and close friends are Chief (Mrs) Folake Solanke, SAN and Professor Bolanle Awe.

She will be buried in Ibadan on March 31, 2023.

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