Dr Thiogo was a favourite during our campus years.
We heard more of his legendary stories when we reported for our first-year semester.
From how he rallied students to assist each other in clearing school fees, to linking students with prospective employees and internship programs.
He would also set boot camps for the ICT projects, where his students would showcase their innovations.
To him, contributing to bringing forth life mattered more than achieving set goals.
“A meaningful life is not a popularity contest. Do what you believe to be the right thing in your heart, and you may or may not get immediate approval from the world,” he would always reiterate.
By then, when we joined campus, he was the head of the department.
As we waited patiently for his first class, he walked in, hobbling on crutches. Tales said he was injured in surgery while seeking treatment for a clot in his knee.
“I’m officially disabled, but I’m truly enabled. My challenges have opened up unique opportunities to reach many in need,” he quoted Nick Vujicic, an Australian-American evangelist and PWD.
Dr Thiogo endeared himself to us with his unique teaching skills, emphasising practicals more than theoretical ones.
“I have never seen students with a missing mark in my classes. You do as I say, and we finish together. We walk from the first year to the end and celebrate your graduation,” he added.
His classes were among those we rarely missed. He would sometimes request extra hours or evening classes, and we obliged.
He would throw us a party once a year to celebrate some milestones.
“These are the moments that unite us,” he would tell me as we enjoyed a Black and White on rocks. We, at times, wondered why he was so down to earth.
Dr Thiogo was not the kind of lecturer who would list all his academic qualifications, from certificate to being a professor and lament that you have demeaned him by calling him Mwalimu.
Outside the classroom, he emphasised being ambassadors of climate change, insisting that we had to make a difference.
“More frequent and intense drought, storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and warming oceans directly harm animals, destroy the places they live, and wreak havoc on our livelihoods and communities.
“Water levels are rising and global warming too. We must plant trees and come up with solutions to climate change. I am sending you out to the world to be solution makers,” he stated.
During our graduation, he lauded our class as one of the best and even took photos with our parents. He felt like family.
He personally impacted my life by assisting me in landing an internship and working at one of the top blue-chip companies after graduation.
A majority of us had listed him as a referee on our resumes, and he also wrote the 30 of us recommendation letters.
While resting at home, working on some projects for a boot camp, I received a call from the secretary with whom we spoke at length. She invited me for an interview which turned out to be quite informal.
Graduands attend a graduation ceremony organised by a Kenyan University.
The CEO was more interested in my personality than my skills and academic certificates.
“Dr Thiogo says you were his class representative for four years. He speaks highly of you,” he would insist.
Did I have more to add to what a legendary tutor had engraved in my employer’s heart? No, I didn’t.
“When are you available to start?” he added. As an enthusiastic job seeker, I pledged to start the very next day, sparking laughter in the room.
“Go home and rest. Plan yourself accordingly and report in two weeks’ time,” I was advised after picking up my employment letter and contract.
And I worked, not only to earn and make my name but also to protect Dr Thiogo’s reputation.
In three years, I rose from a junior employee to a junior manager with more potential. It was then that I thought of appreciating Dr Thiogo, now retired.
One of our classmates was a CEO at an airline, and he organised the chopper ride, while another, a resort manager in Diani, offered to sponsor him and his family on a two-day retreat.
The rest of us raised cash to buy him a tractor for his farm. He had embraced farming and tree plantation at his home in Eldoret. We liaised with his wife, still a lecturer and surprised him at his home.
I had never seen him as emotional as he was. While holding onto one of his crutches, he pulled us in for a hug, one by one, still recalling our names.
“You know, a few days ago, I realised my wife was on the phone for quite a long time, and I happened to see her diary in the library. She was planning for my surprise.
“I didn’t know what she was planning, but I planned to surprise those who would surprise me too,” he stated and asked his house help to pick some goodies from the library.
We were all caught off guard, indeed. Two bottles of Black and White.
“Blended scotch whiskey,” he stated as we all appreciated his kind gesture. Some took it chased, some on the rocks as we recalled the parties he threw to celebrate our milestones on campus.
“There is always, always, always something to be thankful for,” he added as we celebrated his life and kindness.
Black and White Whisky