Born in Tanzania, the last of 10 children, Walter Suza faced a rocky road from the start.
“My father left my mom when I was still an infant,” he said. Although some of his siblings attended high school and college, Walter’s education became precarious. He completed the primary grades but did not go to school during most of his teenage years.
When Walter was 14, the family farm was attacked and destroyed by another tribe. They fled to Dar es Salaam. He promised his mother that, somehow, he would go back to school.
Five years later, Walter moved in with his sister, who lived in Zimbabwe. She stayed with him so he could attend secondary school in Harare. “That created a path for me to complete my secondary education and, ultimately, hope for a chance to attend college,” Walter said.
“In my final year at Mutare Boys’ High, in 1992, my friend Bryan Rwodzi and I were completing college applications,” Walter recalled. “The only application for me was to the University of Zimbabwe, where I planned to pursue physical therapy.”
Bryan asked Walter if he would consider going to Africa University. Walter’s only connection to AU was a friend who was a theology major. Walter hoped to study science.
Your support of the Africa University Fund apportionment supports the general operating expenses of Africa University including faculty and staff salaries and vital infrastructure.
“Bryan let me know that AU also offered agriculture,” Walter said. “He obtained an application form and insisted I fill it out in his presence. He offered to mail the application for me.”
Several months later, Walter learned that his first choice – University of Zimbabwe – did not offer him a scholarship. He was crushed.
Soon thereafter, however, he received a letter from AU.
“It was 1993,” Walter said. “I was accepted to attend the Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources.”
AU proved a good fit for Walter.
“Attending AU provided me an opportunity to learn from some of the best professors,” he said. “These teachers ignited a desire in me to become a college professor.” He applied for graduate school in the United States.
Meanwhile, Walter moved to Angola in 1997 to work for the United Nations World Food Program. Two years later, he returned to Zimbabwe for a UNICEF job, also in food security and vulnerability assessment.
“My work with the U.N.,” he said, “exposed me to real challenges of food insecurity due to war and disasters. I was convinced that I still wanted to attend graduate school to receive more training so I could lead programs to fight food insecurity in Africa.”
In 2000, Walter was offered a chance to attend Murray State University in Kentucky with support from United Methodist churches in Kentucky and Tennessee. By 2006, he had earned a Master of Science degree from Murray State and a doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “Since then,” he said, “I've remained in academia, where I do research to improve the nutritional quality and stress tolerance of crop plants.”
For eight years, he directed a program to provide free educational resources for the next generation of crop scientists in Africa. Those materials are now used in more than 170 countries. He is also involved in the fight against racism and social injustice.
Today, Walter lives in Iowa. At Iowa State University, Ames, he is an adjunct associate professor, involved in teaching and research. He has two children – a college student and a high school senior.
Walter has many fond memories of Africa University. He especially appreciates its commitment to student success.
“I did not have funding to attend AU,” he said. “As student council president, I represented the students, and even though that may have created a conflict at times, AU did not give up on me. I was offered the best education, an opportunity for spiritual growth, a community that embraced me for who I am and a home away from home.”
He cherishes the friendships he nurtured at Africa University.
“We were just 40 students in 1993,” he said. “AU was a family, and it continues to feel in my heart like a family.”
He credits Africa University’s work-study program with teaching him how to serve others. Another lasting lesson was the value of respecting differences in opinions, races, cultures and religious beliefs.
“My journey to Africa University,” Walter said, “is a testament of God's power. I learned about faith. The way AU cared for me emphasized the value of compassion.”
Walter is grateful for the Africa University Fund.
“AU is not just another university.,” Walter noted. “Africa University is God's workshop to build and sharpen his instruments, who will spread across the world to help carry out his will.
“Your gifts,” he said, “have allowed me to give back to Africa – and beyond. The gifts multiply in ways beyond our comprehension. All we can do is to take the bread and the few fish that we have and let their multiplication be done by the One who knows it all even before we are even born.”
story by Barbara Dunlap-Berg, a freelance writer and editor, lives in Carbondale, Illinois.One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Africa University Fund transforms Africa by educating and empowering students from across the continent through Africa University, the first fully accredited, United Methodist-related educational institution on the continent. The Africa University Fund supports the general operating expenses of Africa University including faculty and staff salaries and vital infrastructure. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Africa University Fund at 100 percent.