|Opera singer forges relationship with Africa University
Oct. 5, 2005
A UMNS photo by Vicki Brown
Ernest S. Lyght, chairman of the Africa University Development
Committee, presents an Africa University drum to Kevin Goodwin.
By Linda Green*
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Deeply moved by the story of Africa
University’s founding and growth, concert singer Simon Estes decided not
only to make a financial gift to the school but to become an advocate
With more than 1,200 students from 21 African countries, “Africa
University is truly the work of God in spite of the obstacles put before
you,” Estes said, at the 5th Annual Richard E. “Dick” Reeves Legacy
Society Dinner Sept. 30. The dinner, named in memory of a key supporter
of the school, was held on the eve of the Africa University Development
Committee’s meeting in Nashville.
He said he was “was deeply moved” after hearing about the school,
established in Africa by the United Methodist Church, and to learn there
were those who said Africa University would never happen. “People just
do not know the power of justice, righteousness and God,” he said.
Estes is the artist in residence at both Iowa State University and
United Methodist-related Boston University, and an acclaimed
bass-baritone opera and concert singer. He pledged a monetary gift
during the committee’s Oct. 1 meeting and agreed to “forge a
relationship with the school of dreams,” according to James Salley, the
university’s associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement.
“Simon Estes and his wife, Ovida, will do all they can to assist the
university in raising funds as it moves to excellence in its academic
programs,” Salley said.
Estes, who has performed around the world, is also a well-known youth
advocate. His advocacy created four educational scholarship foundations
for young people, including the Switzerland-based Simon Estes
International Foundation for Children. The Simon Estes Music High School
and choir, near Cape Town, South Africa, stresses musical pursuits and
are named in his honor.
In a new relationship, Africa University will recruit students from the
high school to major in music. By fall 2006, officials hope two students
will be enrolled at the university. School officials also were pleased
by the possibility of having Estes in a formal relationship with the
A UMNS photo by Vicki Brown
Simon Estes addresses Africa University’s Richard E. “Dick” Reeves Legacy Society dinner Sept. 30.
Estes told the dinner audience “it is great that you are supporting
(Africa University) because we do know that civilization began in a
certain area of Africa and people spread out all over the world.”
“I believe that God wanted us to spread out ...,” he said. “God sent
people to migrate to different areas of the globe. I think he made us
different so that the true character can be tested.”
The sadness in the world today is a result of ignorance, lack of
education and unnecessary fear because of the lack of education, he
“One of the ways that we can try to help this planet become a better
place for all of God’s children to live is through education, a total
education,” he said. “What is so great about (Africa University) is that
it is faith-founded,” and “if you have a foundation of faith in God and
ask God to always direct your school, it will flourish.”
Africa University, at Old Mutare, is the continent’s only
degree-granting university related to the general United Methodist
Annual conference support
During its meeting, the development committee learned that the
denomination’s Mississippi Annual (regional) Conference was altering its
$1 million campaign for the school following an August visit to
Zimbabwe. The conference now plans to pursue the campaign in four parts.
The Mississippi Conference had originally decided to build a dormitory
and sponsor a $250,000 gift for HIV/AIDS programs throughout the two
Zimbabwe annual conferences. Instead, it will endow a chair in the
university’s faculty of health sciences to permanently provide a faculty
position, said Lloyd Rollins, the university’s director of development.
The conference also will provide in-kind donations of lab equipment to
outfit the labs in the new health science building.
A UMNS photo by Vicki Brown
James Salley, associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement, addresses the audience at the Sept. 30 dinner.
In addition, the conference will provide scholarships specifically
for health science students, and it will assist the two Zimbabwe annual
conferences in building a district conference center near Mutare. The
center will offer additional office space for the bishop and clinic
facilities that will be affiliated with the university.
The Mississippi campaign, as well as a $1 million campaign by the
Louisiana Annual Conference, is “in a holding pattern with the
devastation left in each conference by Hurricane Katrina,” Rollins said.
Committee members applauded the news that a chance encounter between a
man wearing an Africa University T-shirt and a Virginia lawyer resulted
in a $200,000 bequest to the school.
Salley announced the gift from the estate of the late Eva D. Kern of
Arlington, Va. Kevin Goodwin, a member of the school’s advisory
development committee, was attending an event at Epworth United
Methodist Church in Rehoboth Beach, Del., when he met John L. Melnick of
Falls Church, Va. Goodwin was wearing an Africa University T-shirt. The
men had a conversation about the needs of the school, which resulted in
Melnick, as the sole executor of the Kern estate, disbursing $200,000
to the university for the endowment and for wildlife management
The 50-member development committee, established in 1993, works with
the Africa University Development Office in Nashville and agencies of
the United Methodist Church to raise money for the school’s capital,
endowment and operational needs.
Since the university can be deemed a charitable organization located
outside the United States, the committee discussed possible implications
of the U.S. Patriot Act on its fund-raising work.
The Patriot Act does not affect fund-raising for the school, said
Elaine Jenkins, director of the university’s planned giving office. The
Patriot Act was created following Sept. 11, 2001, to strengthen the
federal government’s ability to combat terrorism. U.S. tax laws prohibit
the diversion of charitable assets to any noncharitable purpose,
including material or financial support of terrorism, she said.
The university’s relationship with the U.S. Agency for International
Development ensures that the school is in compliance, Jenkins told the
committee. USAID has provided more than $8 million for projects at the
“USAID has instituted certification requirements that apply to all
USAID funding recipients to assure that USAID does not directly or
indirectly support terrorist groups or individuals,” she noted.
Through Africa University Inc. Tennessee, funds raised are managed
and invested in the United States until transferred to the university,
which is legally known as Africa University Inc. Zimbabwe, she said.
“The founders, in setting up AU through the UMC system, took all of
these kinds of variables into consideration years before the university
started,” Salley said. “Also, we were getting the kind of scrutiny that
some charities are just now getting long before 9/11 and the Patriot
Act.” The school is aware of the laws and complies with them, he said.
In other action, committee members:
- Viewed www.audo.umc.org, the development office’s new Web site.
- Recognizing Rosalind Lewis, a retired United Methodist Publishing House employee, for her work with the university’s library.
- Received a presentation from United Methodist Communications on how
the agency will help the university educate people about the school and
cultivate partners and donors across the globe.
- Learned that the university, through its Institute of Peace,
Leadership and Governance, has received a $3 million grant from the
African Capacity Building Foundation to provide masters’ degrees in
- Learned that David Manyonga, who recently earned a master’s degree
from the Institute of Peace, Leadership and Governance, was named the
regional coordinator for the Southern and Great Lakes Africa United
Movement to End Child Soldiering. The university, through the institute,
signed a memorandum of understanding with the movement in August to
expand the institute’s intern program and give students the opportunity
to work in peace-keeping initiatives in war zones in northern Uganda and
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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