Cuttington University Alumni Association in the Americas (CUAAA) has nominated Rabbi Gbaba as recipient of the prestigious Jeremiah C. Sulunteh (JCS) Academic Achievement Award for Excellence. The auspicious honoring ceremony and award gala will be held at the lofty Crofton Country Club, 1691 Crofton Parkway, Maryland 21114 on April 18, 2020 at 8 p.m. Red Carpet photo shoot begins at 7 p.m.
CUAAA launched the JCS Academic Award in April 2016 to generate funds to support the reconstruction of Cuttington University campuses in Liberia, and the Cuttington Alumni Association in the Americas has since had this event annually. The fundraising events have raised over Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000) and proceeds were used to assist in paving the road on Cuttington’s Suacoco campus, paint residential halls, and provide solar panel for streetlights and to light up main instructional buildings on the University Suacoco campus.
According to the CUAAA letter signed by its Fundraising Chairperson, Mrs. Florida Kweekeh, read: “You have been selected to receive an award in the category of Academic in recognition of your academic achievement, your contribution to our community as well as your participation in this fundraising event….”
Dr. Gbaba once served as a faculty member at Cuttington University as Lecturer in the Humanities Division from 1985-1988. He taught courses in English, African Literature, Shakespeare, Expository Writing, Freshman English courses, served as Faculty Advisor for English Literature majors. Dr. Gbaba was Director of the Cuttington Players during which he produced two of his plays, “Chains of Apartheid” and “The Minstrel’s Tales” and took students on the road to perform at the Relda Theatre in Monrovia, Booker Washinton Institute in Kakata, Margibi County, and at the Open Door Theatre in Yekepa, Nimba County, where the renowned Liberian playwright and theatre icon staged his first theatrical production “Kekula” forty-six years ago. Dr. Gbaba was also Chair of the Faculty Cultural Pattern Committee at Cuttington.
In response, “Liberia’s Shakespeare” wrote:
“Happy New Year to all of you. Also, my wife and I extend you sentiments of our highest esteem as we acknowledge receipt of your letter nominating me for the prestigious Jeremiah C. Sulunteh Academic Award for Academic Excellence. On behalf of the Gbaba Family and members of the Royal Household of the Nien Dynasty, we accept your nomination with thanks and appreciation, and we are happy to inform your Association “Ahplokush”/ “Uncle Joe” is coming with a high-powered delegation to your fundraising gala on April 18, 2020!”
Also, Dr. Gbaba acknowledged the glorious experience he and his family had when he taught at Cuttington thirty-five years ago. He expressed gratitude to his students and colleagues for helping him grow academically and artistically and lauded his former student Jeremiah Sulunteh after whom the award is named for his humility and support when the latter served as Liberia’s Ambassador to the United States and Canada.
“As you are aware, my days at Cuttington in the mid-to-late 1980s are among the most prolific years of my academic and artistic career. Jerry was a student at Cuttington then and so were many of you with whom my family and I lived and interacted as a community of scholars. When Jerry became Liberia’s Ambassador to the United States and Canada, he remembered our close relationship and everywhere he saw me he recognized me as his “Prof.” “
As one of the most favored Liberian diplomats ever in the diaspora, Jerry and his late wife spent time freely interacting with various Liberian communities and he promoted Liberian cultural and educational events like the Dehkontee Artists Theatre production. He is a man of deeds. I salute him and his late wife for their support over the years.
“Jerry and his late wife made it their binding duty to attend one of my productions, “The Frogs and Black Snake in Frogsville” on a cold wintry night on January 9th, 2016, at the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts in Bowie, Maryland, four years ago. This showed how much love he has for his people, Liberian history and culture and education. For, normally, most Liberian Ambassadors accredited to the United States would shun your invitation and drill you around, but Jerry did not. So, the person for whom this prestigious award is named deserves the honor because Jerry prioritizes and values Liberian history and culture and efficient education. Therefore, I am honored to be nominated to receive an award that bears his name. “
“Additionally, I met some of the most enchanting and intelligent Liberian youths and scholars in my life at Cuttington more than thirty-five years ago. I learned from them and they learned from me and we all became a happy Cuttington Family. The atmosphere at Cuttington was very conducive for research and scholarship. There, I grew as an academician and artist and the profound memories we shared together as your beloved “Uncle Joe” and you my beloved “nephews” and “nieces” can never be forgotten because God provided you and me an opportunity to grow together. Hence today here we are once again working together in the best interest of our dear Cuttington, Princess Ariminta’s, my wife’s Alma Mater. Cuttington University holds a very special place in our hearts and so do all of you and all institutions of learning in Liberia. I pray that we may be of greater service to you and the Liberian people in the realms of education and culture soon.”
Dr. Gbaba was one of Cuttington’s favorite professors during the late 1980s. He was affectionately called “Uncle Joe” or “Aplorkush” because of his loving and jovial nature as a scholar and entertainer. Presently, Rabbi Gbaba is retired, works full time as Executive Director and Founder of his nonprofit organization, Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI). He is also Chairman of the Kukatonon Peace and Reconciliation Initiative, Inc. (KPRI).
Jerry’s humility made him a well-liked and favored Liberian diplomat. He was approachable and he assimilated well among his constituents. In photo, Ambassador Sulunteh shakes hands with Dehkontee Artists Theatre’s President Emeritus, James Krischen Wah after the production of Joe Gbaba’s “The Frogs and Black Snake in Frogsville” at the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts, January 9, 2016.
Gbaba currently works with Liberian college youths in Liberia to promote peace and reconciliation through the Dehkontee Artists Theatre Kukatonon Peace Project in Liberia. The project is gradually gaining momentum. Over fifty college students from various regions and ethnic groups of Liberia have been trained as Peace Advocates. There are two Dehkontee Artists Theatre chapters in Liberia. One is in Harper, Maryland County and the other is in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city. The fifty Liberian college youths completed their training and received their certificates during the formal launch of Dehkontee Artists Theatre Kukatonon Peace Project in Liberia on November 16th in Monrovia at the Providence Baptist Church Shrine and November 22nd, 2019 at Harper City Hall.
The Gbaba family cordially invites all family members, supporters and fans of Dr. Gbaba to join our honoree and supporters, students and alumni of Cuttington University on April 18, 2020 at the lofty Crofton Country Club in Maryland for an evening of fanfare and pageantry. Please contact Mrs. Glendy Reeves, Dr. Kondeh Greaves, Florida Kweekeh, and Mr. Hassan L. Tall for more information about the gala.