May 29, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Two Alumni: A Search through 50 Years, Two Countries

Tipoteh and LeFevre, 1963

50 Years Ago

In the fall of 1960, 18-year-old Les LeFevre, from the small town of Madeira, OH, went off to Ohio University in the rural hills of southeastern Ohio. He was assigned to Lincoln Hall, the newest dormitory on the East Green. Not long after, he met and became friends with an outgoing freshman from Liberia, Africa, by the name of Rudolph “Rudy” Roberts. The two are pictured above in 1963.

The two had nothing in common except that perhaps both felt a little intimidated, but Roberts was a pretty outgoing chap and made friends easily. It was fun to tease him about wearing his “Elmer Fudd” hat with ear flaps down in 50 degree weather. Not only was the total environment new for Rudy, but so was the weather.

LeFevre, the local Ohio boy, was trying to play football and Roberts was a natural at soccer and tennis, playing both sports at Ohio. After LeFevre had to give up football, Roberts talked him into trying soccer. LeFevre became the backup goalie on the 1962 Ohio Conference Championship team while Roberts concentrated on tennis at Ohio. After the spring of 1963, Roberts had earned a B.A. in Economics from Ohio, and LeFevre earned a B.S. a year after leaving campus in 1964.

Both of them went on to Ohio State University for post-graduate studies and saw each other occasionally that first year in Columbus. Roberts earned a master’s degree in a short time and left Ohio State while LeFevre graduated from the dental school in 1967 and joined the First Marine Air Wing in Vietnam in 1967-68.

The Search

LeFevre returned to campus a number of times over the years to attend football games and to visit his daughter who attended Ohio University as well. During a few of those visits LeFevre inquired at the alumni office for any information on Rudy Roberts, the Liberian student who left warm impressions about their time in Athens. The only information that the Alumni Office had on Roberts was that he was in exile in Europe. It was not until the new century when the internet and search engines enabled LeFevre to surf the web for information that progress was made. Occasionally LeFevre would extend his internet search for Roberts to Europe but had little success.

LeFevre had retired early from dentistry to pursue a career in art (artist for the Ohio University Bicentennial Print), and this gave him the time to explore what had become of Roberts. He mused that he must have had an interesting and successful life. Finally narrowing the search to Liberia, LeFevre discovered that Roberts had become Dr. Rudolph Roberts and in 1971 took a Liberian name of Togba-Nah Tipoteh. No wonder finding him was so difficult. Tipoteh had a doctorate in economics and was very active politically in Liberia.

Even with this new information, it was still almost impossible to contact Tipoteh—even though he had been a candidate for the Presidency of Liberia a number of times. Finally, stumbling upon the death notice of Augustus Roberts, the brother of Tipoteh, LeFevre found a list of siblings and even some phone numbers. At this same time Tipoteh was evacuated to New York for emergency medical treatment, and it looked like the reunion might never happen.

May 2013

As it turns out, LeFevre discovered that Tipoteh’s sister, Adelaide Nmuna Tipoteh Harris, and her husband, Tony Harris, lived right here in Ohio, near Cincinnati, not far from LeFevre’s home. Adelaide Harris is an assistant professor of nursing at the University of Cincinnati. She passed on the phone numbers, and they had a joyful time on the telephone for about an hour. A break in Tipoteh’s schedule allowed him to come from New York to Cincinnati. Dr. Tipoteh was accompanied by his biographer, and 40-year co-worker, Mr. Al Gbi Toe. On April 12, Les LeFevre, with his wife, Kathy, and Togba-Nah Tipoteh, his sister Adelaide and her husband, along with Toe, were able to meet in Cincinnati and talk about old times after exactly 50 years.

Dr. Tipoteh is married to the former Ms. Fatu Ruth Kanneh. He is a professor and the author of more than 200 professional articles and a book on the Democracy of Liberia. Among other honors, he founded Susukuu, a 42-year-old Liberian poverty-alleviation nonprofit, and was also the former chairman of the African Group of African Governors of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Following the reunion at the Harris Home, LeFevre took Tipoteh on a city tour that included a visit to LeFevre’s home and his “Bobcat Studio.” They worked in a visit to Athens and Ohio University and the Department of Economics on May 9, before Dr. Tipoteh has to return to Liberia.

Tipoteh and LeFevre, 2013

Tipoteh and LeFevre, 2013


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