Iowa Wesleyan honors alumni Clement Isong

Pouwei Tombri, an IW international student from Nigeria, and IW President Chris Plunkett unveiled the plaque together (Mariah Giberson/The Union)
Pouwei Tombri, an IW international student from Nigeria, and IW President Chris Plunkett unveiled the plaque together (Mariah Giberson/The Union)

Friday, Iowa Wesleyan University continued its celebration of Black History Month by honoring one of its own alumni, Clement Isong. Clement Isong of Nigeria graduated from Iowa Wesleyan in 1954, and though his impact in Nigeria is well known to many, it wasn’t until recently that the same can be said for Iowa Wesleyan.

“It was six years ago when I stepped foot on campus and got this message,” Wesleyan University Provost DeWayne Frazier said. “It said we’re with the Nigerian government, and I was like, ‘Oh, are you a prince?’ But the funny thing was that when I started reading through it, I realized this was a real foundation, and it was really cool.”

“When I looked up the person they mentioned, and then it clicked,” he said. “We knew that he went to Iowa Wesleyan, but no one knew the story behind Clement Isong.”

Through the efforts of Frazier, Historical Collections Joy Conwell, and other Iowa Wesleyan staff, the group helped dig up information, records, and photographs of Clement Isong during his time at Iowa Wesleyan, which are featured in a soon-to-be-published book about Isong.

Clement Isong became an influential figure in Nigeria after he was appointed governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria from 1967 to 1975 and governor of Cross River State in 1979 to 1983. Isong was noted for converting the Nigerian currency from pound to naira, as well as establishing a manufacturing industry for ceramics, paints and steel.

With a population of more than 40 percent of students that identify as non-Caucasian, Iowa Wesleyan and its administration believe that they have an obligation to address past and current injustices to those who have been disadvantaged through discrimination. As a campus, Iowa Wesleyan is committed to deepening their understanding of diversity and inclusion in order to help rectify those injustices and help all campus students.

“We wanted to make sure we had a chance to honor Clement Isong for generations to come,” Frazier said. “With this plaque hanging in this room in the library, students and people on visiting tours can see the kind of impact IW people of color can have.”

“I think it’s great, having this honoring plaque here,”

IW International Student Club President Nico Sheck said. “It goes to show how important international students and students of color are to Iowa Wesleyan.”

“Ultimately, it was such a powerful moment to see what had happened to Clement Isong,” Frazier said. “To think about our students, you know looking out at all of these wonderful faces here, I have no doubt that they’re going to do amazing things, too. Maybe someday, 50 years from now they’ll be on currency, too.”