the adored —
Parents of Ijeoma, Uche, Chuks, Okey, Chimamanda and Kene.
Grandparents of Toks, Chisom, Amaka, Chinedum, Kamsi, Arinze, Chimkasi, Munachino and Obidike.
Parents-in-law of Obi, Sonny, Tinuke, Oluchi and Ivara.
They were married in Nsukka on April 15, 1963.
James passed away on June 10, 2020.
Grace passed away on March 1, 2021, on James’ birthday.
Grace Ifeoma Chikaodili Adichie (nee Odigwe) was born on November 29, 1942 in Umunnachi, Dunukofia LGA, Anambra State. She was the first child of Felix Aro-Nweke and Regina Nwabuodu Odigwe. She spent her early years in Widikum, Cameroon, where her father was a businessman.
In a time when girls were not educated, Aro-Nweke was determined that his first child would receive more than just a perfunctory education. Grace attended Rosary High School, Enugu and Queen of the Rosary College, Onitsha, obtaining her West African School Certificate in 1960.
Her friends called her GC London – “GC” from her name Grace and “London” because she was very good at English. She was known as an excellent netball player, a popular, sociable student and an academic star.
Once her father wrote to her at school and addressed his letter ‘my dear son.’ Grace assumed he had made a mistake while writing in English. When she pointed it out to him, he told her he knew exactly what he had written. “I want you to know that you are everything a son is and you can do what a son can,” he told her.
She married James Adichie in 1963, a happy union that would produce six children.
She travelled with James to the United States and while he studied for his PhD, she began her university education at Merit College in California. With the disruption of the Nigerian-Biafran war upon her return to Nigeria, she finally completed it at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, earning a degree in Sociology and Anthropology.
She began her career as a cabinet officer in the East Central Government of Nigeria, Enugu, in 1972. In 1973, she joined the University of Nigeria, Nsukka as an administrative officer. She rose through the ranks and finally made history when she became the first woman to lead the administration of the university as Registrar.
She served on the governing council of the university and its various committees, the Senate and its many committees, as well as the university’s convocation and congregation. She was named “University of Nigeria Nsukka Best Administrator” in 2002.
After her retirement, she served as a member of the governing council, Anambra State University, Uli. Until her death, she was a permanent member of the Anambra State Universal Basic Education board (ASUBEB), a job that gave her great joy, whether participating in teacher training workshops, overseeing curriculum, or going on school inspections.
She was a devoted mother and grandmother, a loving sister and aunt, a skilled and conscientious administrator, a Lady of St. Mulumba of the Roman Catholic Church, a warm woman full of love and laughter and wit. She was fun and funny.
She had great style – she always dressed beautifully and was known for her beauty, her gorgeous skin that glowed into her older years and her God-given gift of looking much younger than her age. She was a great dancer, and would ‘lead the dance’ (o na-atu ukwe) with the dance groups she belonged to in her younger days. She was generous and large-hearted, helping those in need, often eager to feed everyone. She had a sharp eye that missed nothing, and a sharp tongue that emerged when it was needed. She was a progressive and open-minded thinker, a keen consumer of current affairs and an engaging conversationalist. She had a natural warmth, a quickness to humour, and a wide range of friends.
She was popularly known as ‘Electric’ because she was very light-skinned, and her friends and acquaintances called her by variants of that nickname: Eleti, Eleti-Oku, Electric-Umuagbala.
Once, during a routine medical check-up in the United States, Grace was told that the doctors had discovered a growth that needed further investigation. Even before she learned that it had turned out to be a false scare, Grace calmly told her daughter Chimamanda, “I have lived a full and happy life.”
James Nwoye Anagbalumnkpu Adichie was born in Abba on March 1st, 1932 into the family of Mr. Nwoye David Adichie of Umueri Quarters, Ezi-Abba village of Abba and Nwamgbafor Agnes Ekwenugo of Iruezeukwu Quarters, Igbuala village, Ifite-Dunu in Dunukofia LGA of Anambra State.
He was baptized in the Catholic Church on August 1st, 1932. In 1935 he began kindergarten at the Roman Catholic Mission school, Abba, where he also attended Infant 1 and Infant 2. In 1939, he began Standard 1 at the same school but the next year, because Standard 2 was scrapped in Abba, he continued his education at St Raphael’s Roman Catholic Mission school in Awkuzu.
In 1946, having attained the minimum teaching age of 14 years, he began teaching standard 2 at the same school. He later gained admission into Africa College in Onitsha, while also privately studying for the Senior Cambridge Examinations. In 1949, he spent two years completing an instructor’s course at the Yaba Technical College in Lagos.
He passed his Advanced level GCE examinations with distinction in his subjects: Pure and Applied mathematics, English Literature and Latin. In 1957, he gained admission into the University College Ibadan, then affiliated with the University of London, to study Mathematics. He graduated in 1960 at the top of his class with a BA Mathematics (pure and advanced) of the University of London.
In 1961 he was appointed an Assistant Lecturer in the department of Mathematics, Statistics and Astronomy in the newly instituted University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He got married to Grace Ifeoma Odigwe in 1963 and shortly thereafter he proceeded to the US to study for a PhD at the University of California Berkeley. He completed his doctorate studies in three years, making him the first Nigerian to hold a PhD in Statistics. His thesis was titled “Nonparametric inference in Linear Regression.”
He returned to the University of Nigeria in 1966, shortly after which the Nigeria-Biafra war broke out. During the war, he worked in the Biafran Manpower Directorate. He returned to Nsukka at the end of the war. He quickly rose to Senior Lecturer in 1972, to Reader in 1974, and in 1976 he became a full professor of statistics, the first Nigerian to be.
He produced and published quality research, and delivered lectures and seminars in various universities including Cambridge, Glasgow, Birmingham, Sheffield, and Imperial College London.
He was a reviewer for various mathematical and statistical journals and served as Head of Department of Statistics and Dean of the Faculty of Physical Sciences. From August 1980 to July 1984, he served as Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria after which he went on sabbatical to the San Diego State University in 1985.
According to his biographers, “Professor Adichie has had such a profound effect on the discipline and profession of statistics…he is a calm and confident intellectual giant. Apart from the training of generations of university students, Professor JN Adichie has in general been the key architect of statistical education in Nigeria.” (Biography of Nigeria’s foremost professor of statistics: Prof James Nwoye Adichie by Emeritus Prof Alex Animalu, Prof Peter I Uche and Jeff Unaegbu. University of Nigeria Press Limited: 2013)