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Otterbein Towers: Broderick family a legacy of global engagement

Otterbein Towers: Broderick family a legacy of global engagement


Editor's Note: This and other stories appear in the Summer 2017 edition of Towers Magazine, available online now.

The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone traces its history to 1855, when the Church of the United Brethren in Christ began mission work there. Otterbein sent its first missionaries to Sierra Leone a year later, in 1856 and planted new roots.

The Broderick family traces its history with Otterbein to 1920, when Dr. Sylvester M. Broderick ’24 traveled from Sierra Leone to attend the University. He was the first of three generations to graduate from Otterbein, including his son, daughter and two grandsons.

Sylvester returned to Sierra Leone after graduating and worked as the director of education when the country was under British colonial rule. In 1961, Sierra Leone became an independent nation and was named the 100th member of the United Nations.

During that historic time his son, Dr. S. Modupe Broderick ’63, was attending Otterbein.

“I recall traveling to Washington, D.C., to attend the independence ceremonies at the embassy with a few students from Sierra Leone,” Modupe said. “We were honored to be present at such a once-in-a-lifetime event. We met dignitaries from the State Department and received a copy of the Sierra Leone national anthem, which we gave to Dr. Lee Shackson at Otterbein for the Glee Club to sing.” The anthem was composed by Otterbein graduate John J. Akar ’51.

Modupe and his friend, Imodale Caulker-Burnett ’63, were the first two students from an independent Sierra Leone to graduate from Otterbein.

While at Otterbein, Modupe was focused on his studies but also found time to be involved in campus life. “I came from a small village and Westerville also was small, so it kept me focused on my work. We also played sports — my father had been a long distance runner at Otterbein and I played tennis,” he said. Modupe also was a member of the Glee Club, French Club and Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, and spoke in churches about Sierra Leone and his life growing up in Africa.

Modupe found Otterbein to be a welcoming place. “There were not many foreign students except for those from Sierra Leone. I made friends with classmates, and we were invited home by their families during long breaks like Christmas to meet their families and friends.”

Modupe completed his doctorate degree in anthropology, specializing in African oral and written communication systems, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He then taught these subjects in Nigeria for five years.

Eventually he married Amelia Fitzjohn, a U.S. Foreign Service officer, and became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He continued to teach in the countries where his wife was assigned overseas. Modupe retired in September 2011 and now resides in Maryland.

“Otterbein has been good to my family and in many ways I look on the education as being very pivotal for my work. Those who came ahead of me were examples to follow,” Modupe said. “I’m proud of my nephews being the third generation of Broderick descendants who have attended Otterbein.”

Read the Summer 2017 edition of Towers online now.