From a press release
“I am truly grateful to America, the Southern University System and SUNO for giving me an opportunity to lead this University for the past 10 years,” Dr. Ukpolo said. “I came to America from Nigeria 44 years ago as a young man with $200 in my pocket and worked my way up from a dishwasher to become the head of a University. Now it is time for me to start my gradual transition back to Nigeria.”
After he steps down, Dr. Ukpolo plans to return to the classroom to teach at SUNO before eventually returning to Nigeria as the patriarch of his family. “It is my hope that I still have some productive years to give back to my homeland,” he said.
“My parents, particularly my mother, had not supported my idea to come to America because they feared losing me, but I assured them that I would be back in five years,” Dr. Ukpolo added. “Now, 44 years later, I am finally able to keep that promise.”
Dr. Ukpolo was appointed Chancellor on Jan. 6, 2006. He led SUNO during a critical time in the University’s history, rebuilding the campus that was submerged in flood waters after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. During his tenure, the University built its first-ever housing complex, an Information Technology Center, a new College of Business & Public Administration Building, and a Small Business Incubator on the newly developed Lake Campus.
Dr. Ukpolo also oversaw the renovations of the University Center, the Leonard S. Washington Memorial Library and the first floor of the Bashful Administration Building. In addition, four new buildings are slated to be constructed: the Education Building, the Natural Sciences Building, the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Building, and the Millie M. Charles School of Social Work. The University broke ground on the new Social Work building in November 2015.
SUNO experienced impressive student population growth under Dr. Ukpolo’s leadership. Immediately after Hurricane Katrina, he launched an aggressive marketing and reorganization campaign, which included the introduction of four innovative online programs to attract displaced students. Despite projections that only 1,200 to 1,500 of the 3,600 students enrolled before the storm would return, more than 2,100 students came back to continue their education on the new Lake Campus in trailers supplied the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. many who, like him, are the first in their families to attend college.