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Bringing the Legacy Home: From Mississippi, Louisiana and California to Côte d’Ivoire

MrsGarnerBill and Lucy Garner, as told to John F. Hicks

A great education often leads you down an unforeseen path.  Bill and Lucy Garner, friends who generously supported our October 2014 Inaugural Launch, were kind enough to share their story with us: what motivated them to give to the IUGB Foundation, how they contribute to West Africa’s future, and how their thirst for intercultural knowledge eventually led them to the homes of their African ancestors.

Bill and Lucy: “We are pleased to be able to support the efforts and goals of the International University of Grand-Bassam (IUGB) located in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa.  We are proud of the work the IUGB Foundation is doing to aid in delivering high quality education.  Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of your efforts.”

John F. Hicks, Executive Director of the IUGB Foundation, first told The Garners about the Ivorian University.  When he invited Bill and Lucy to participate and help support the Foundation’s mission of helping students in financial need obtain a high quality education, they were delighted to provide all the help they could.

As a couple with a strong STEM academic background long before the term was coined, Bill and Lucy were serious about science and mathematics.   In 1965 Bill received a Bachelor of Science degree from Morgan State University in Physics.  That background launched his career with Hughes Aircraft Company, now Raytheon.  Bill retired after 27 years after reaching the level of Component Laboratory Manager.  Lucy, meanwhile, taught math in the Los Angeles Unified School District for 31 years.  She received her Bachelor of Science degree at California State College Los Angeles in Mathematics in 1967, and received her Master’s degree in Mathematics at the University of Southern California.

P1000716The Garners’ interest in Africa began in 1997 when they traveled to Zimbabwe to attend the Africa-African American Summit hosted by the late Reverend Leon H. Sullivan.  Lucy’s love of African textiles, sculpture and other art forms led to side trips in Zimbabwe to visit renowned Shona stone sculptors. From their experiences on that trip, the couples’ interest in learning more about Africa’s culture and its people blossomed.

A business partner of Bill and Lucy, Joseph M. Bates, began traveling extensively to West Africa, and soon they were discussing supporting education and development there.  Their thirst to learn more, and to do more, led them to form a non-profit: Infrastructure Development for Education Africa (IDEA) which supports excellence in the education of people of African ancestry.

Finally, the Garners found themselves more intimately linked with Africa than they knew.  Bill was pleased to learn from African Ancestry’s analysis a few years ago that his ancestry includes Tikar people in Cameroon, and the Lyela people living in Burkina Faso, in his maternal and paternal lines respectively.  Bill and Lucy visited Cameroon to experience the Ngouon Festival of Bamoun in December 2012, a rich cultural experience for the couple.

Now that they have chosen to enrich the future of students attending the International University of Grand-Bassam, Bill and Lucy are building a legacy that will forge even more paths and relationships in the years to come.  We can’t wait to share some of these students’ discoveries with them!