Prof. Yaw D. Yeboah, professor of chemical and biomedical engineering and former dean of the Florida A&M University – Florida State University College of Engineering, was the chairman of the 110th Anniversary of the third oldest high school in Ghana – Ghana Secondary Technical School (GSTS), Takoradi.
In his speech, Professor Yaw Yeboah urged all individuals and stakeholders present at the event to make their life
be of positive impact by serving or volunteering to help others. He further added that Ghana’s problems can be
solved with shared common purpose and goal through grass-root changes in the values, culture, ethics, and
character of you the young generation and future leaders.
Below is a copy of Professor Yaw Yeboah’s full speech:
110th Anniversary of GSTS: Chairman’s Opening Remarks
Good morning everybody! Thank you, Ms. Abaidoo, for your generous introduction. Your Excellency Mr. President, Nananom, honorable and distinguished guests, anniversary year classes from 1954-2009, ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed a pleasure and an honor to chair this 110th anniversary of our beloved institution, Ghana Secondary Technical School.
Today’s theme, “110 Years of Creativity in Secondary and Technical Education: Prospects and Challenges in Nation Building”, is about the positive impact GSTS has had in the past 110 years and the expectation of its continued future positive impact in building Ghana. Individuals made GSTS what it is, and individuals, like you, will make GSTS and Ghana what they would be in the future. Thus, the message in this year’s theme, for all of us, is to have a positive impact in your lifetime, just like GSTS. That will be your legacy and how you will be remembered, as your life will be measured by the lives you touch.
Here are six life choices, and yes, they are choices, we can each make to improve our chances of having a positive impact.
- Have a positive and forward-looking attitude in life. Focus more on the positives. Do not ignore the negatives, but learn from them and move on. If you focus on your failures, you lower your self-esteem, drive and motivation, and become bitter and self-destructive.
- Learn to be content and grateful. Celebrate the little accomplishments in “your failures” and they will propel you to new heights. If you are not content and grateful, you become frustrated, disappointed, disheartened, bitter, and self-destructive.
- Focus on the only thing you can control in life – yourself. That means focus on your actions and choices and develop ethical values, character traits, and decision-making skills. It is impossible to have integrity, responsibility, trustworthiness, reliability, compassion, etc. and not have a positive impact.
- Serve and volunteer to help others. As Myles Munroe once said, “The greatest display of leadership is service.” So, as students, alumni, and citizens serve your school, community, and Ghana.
- Value teamwork. As the saying goes, if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. It will take teamwork with all its stakeholders for GSTS to get ahead in excellence. The keys to success in teamwork are collaboration, consultation, mutual respect, accountability, transparency, and knowing your role and the fact that how you say “it”, not necessarily, how good the idea is, often determines whether it is received, accepted, and acted upon.
- Pay the goodness and kindness others show you in life forward. Most people do not expect payback; often, we do not know who did us the favor to pay back. I, for example, do not know who paid for my SAT registration fee that got me into MIT. From the library, I got the addresses of many US professors and wrote for help; someone did, and I still do not know who did to thank them. Many GSTS alumni groups paid it forward with yesterday’s commissioned projects including the closed-circuit TV security camera and surveillance system (1969), renovation of dining hall/kitchen (1981, 1989, 2009), sickbay (1993), guidance and counselling office (GAA-NA), Vanderpuye House terrazzo floor (Vanderpuye Giants) and many others. Let us thank them for their generosity!
We should all be ecstatic about the capital campaign to raise a minimum of one million cedis for the endowment recently launched by the GAA with 100K Ghc seed donation from Gt. Nana Yaw Obeng. The endowment is the best idea and initiative from the alumni association. The ‘74 and ‘79 Groups have paid it forward with Ghc 50K and Ghc 79K, respectively, towards it. Let us thank Gt. Obeng, the ’74 and ‘79 groups for their donations. I am pleased to announce today that 30 members of the GSTS Alumni Association of North America are donating to the endowment at least $1000 each for a total of over $30K or the equivalent of over 165K Ghc; doubling the combined total of Gt. Obeng’s seed money and the ’74 group donation. We have to maintain this momentum in growing the fund as support and growth of the endowment has the potential to transform GSTS to new heights.
To recap, based on the true meaning of today’s occasion and theme, let your life be of positive impact. Begin now and have a positive and forward-looking attitude; be content and grateful; develop good values, ethics, character traits, and decision-making skills; value service and teamwork; and pay it forward. Ghana’s problems can be solved with shared common purpose and goal through grass-root changes in the values, culture, ethics, and character of you the young generation and future leaders. I challenge you, as I finish, to develop, build, and use these traits to address some pet peeves that are also issues hindering the advancement of Ghana. You and your generation will forever be remembered for your impact if you can address, among others, the following issues in your lifetime.
- Corruption, dishonesty, and lack of accountability: They go together, and we are all guilty of them. We “steal” time by not starting work, meetings, functions, etc. on time and always using traffic and even God not being willing as excuses. As in corruption, time is/involves money.
- The resources, both time and money, we spend on the dead. It is good to send our loved ones off with decent burials. However, there is no good reason why, after at most two weeks, we should not move forward focusing on the future and living, especially the children, instead of the past. Meanwhile, the dead do not want it. How do I know? Well, is there anyone here who, when they die, as if that is not bad enough, wishes to be frozen in a spooky place for one year? Six months? One month? Ok, just two weeks? We don’t want it, yet we borrow to do it competitively with “show and tell,” at a loss, and then turn round and tell the children, “sorry, we got in debt, so you are now on your own.” What does that say about us and our priorities? Meanwhile, what we would all appreciate is “fitting care” while alive.
3. The lack of functional infrastructure to sustain anything [companies die with their founders; land ownership is a problem (greed, regressive leasehold policies, and community ownership); and buildings/facilities deteriorate (lack of maintenance culture and community ownership)].
4. The misuse, misunderstanding, and abuse of religion and faith as substitutes for good old fashion hard work. We cannot tolerate our children and students not doing their work. Yet, we expect God to not only tolerate but also bless us for not doing ours. Use of “Crafty pastors,” “Fama Nyame,” and “Nyame Woho” have become code words for “I can’t do it, Lord, you do it.” We refuse to hear or listen to God’s voice calling and telling us he made us in his image and blessed us with the tools and resources to improve our lives and to use them.
5. The continued de-emphasis of “technical education” in a country that needs it for industrialization. GSTS was established in 1909 by the colonial government to provide technical training in engineering and craftsmanship and still has “technical” in its name, but there is little technical emphasis now. Sad! A classic illustration of my point is this: my elder brother, who was responsible for me coming to GSTS went to Mampong Trade School for three/four years and was hired by Ghana’s largest sawmill company, African Timber and Plywood (Ghana) Ltd. They were so impressed with his trade school skills (engineering drawing, machinery, etc.) that they sent him to the UK for further practical training. Upon his return and some years later, he became the “Chief Engineer” at the company hiring and training KNUST engineering graduates. Meanwhile, he had no formal university or engineering degree; just his trade school and UK training. Can that happen now? No! In fact, Mampong Trade School is now the Mampong “Technical” College of Education for training teachers. It has “technical” in its name, but just like GSTS, offers little to no technical education/training. We seem to like titles/names but not value what they truly mean and require.
We need an emphasis on education that helps with our industrialization/development. One that leads to innovations and practical applications that improve our lives and produce graduates able to create products and jobs, not just look for jobs. By the way, I hear many graduates now aspire to create jobs as pastors where they are the only ones who are paid, but that is not the kind of job I am talking about. Those and other types of jobs have not helped advance Ghana. It will take hard work and the talents and resources the good Lord has blessed us with to do that, just as Singapore, Israel, China, and many others have managed to do.
Let me end with what Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., once said, “Life can be so much broader once you discover that everything around you that you call “life” was made by people who were no smarter than you. And you can change it; you can influence it, you can build things that other people can use.” That is the kind of job I am talking about. Your education, when you come out from GSTS or university, should make you believe Steve Jobs’ statement and help you turn it into reality. No excuses!
I am confident if you and future generations develop and maintain the needed leadership and character traits, you will successfully overcome the challenges and leave lasting positive impact; just as GSTS has done for 110 good years and will continue to do with your help. We, who are gathered here today, from the president all the way down, strongly believe in you and are counting on you to honor the theme of today’s occasion with a lifetime positive impact on GSTS, Ghana and Society as a whole.
Thank you, and God Bless.
Chairman’s Closing Remarks
This has indeed been a spectacular, impressive, and highly successful event. If you agree, please join me in expressing our thanks and appreciation to the president and special guests, organizers of the event, all of you for your participation, and in congratulating the award winners with a big round of applause.
I know the impact today’s occasion can have on students. I was the scholar of the year in 1968, and my long-time good friend, Jonathan Abrokwah, was in 1969. We pushed each other to be our best and ended up at MIT as roommates. The penguin encyclopedia I received as scholar of the year is right here. That should tell you the impact such an occasion had on me, and I hope today motivates and pushes you to 1). compete healthily; 2). excel, and 3). raise the overall standard at GSTS.
As we end this session, let me go back to the challenge I threw to you in my opening remarks. Choose to put into practice what you have heard today and develop the values, ethics, character, backbone, strength, will, and thick skin to address the critical challenges that continue to pull Ghana back. If your generation can do that in your lifetime, you will forever be remembered in Ghana. As a reminder, some of the challenges are:
1). Corruption, dishonesty, and lack of accountability (Remember: Time is money.)
2). The resources, time, and money we waste on the dead; the dead did not want it while alive.
3). The lack of infrastructure to sustain anything in Ghana (companies, land ownership, buildings, and facilities)
4). The misuse, misunderstanding, and abuse of religion and faith (as substitutes for hard work)
5). The continued de-emphasis of “technical education” that is needed for our industrialization. The Technical/Trade Schools should be increased, and their scope enhanced to include computer technology, robotics, and evolving STEM-related technologies. It is not too late for us, as a nation, to assess our educational system and policies, cultural practices, laws, and everything we do to see if they are meeting our needs or improving the quality of our lives and to come out with corrective measures if they are not. Our education, for example, should help with our industrialization, lead to innovations and practical applications that improve our lives and produce graduates able to create products and jobs.
Now that I can see in your eyes that you are fired up and ready to honor the theme of today with a positive lifetime impact, as GSTS has done, I am confident you will live up to the challenge and expectations, and 1). positively touch the lives of many; 2). assist GSTS to continue with its positive impact, and 3). address the critical challenges that continue to drag Ghana down.
Thank you for the opportunity to chair this special occasion and for being such a wonderful audience. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Nananom, and Ministers gathered here, thank you for taking time off your busy schedules to join us today. Class of 2019 and 2020, good luck and congratulations! Remember and take advantage of everything you heard today from the speakers.
All Giants and guests, see you this evening at the GAA fundraising dinner that you do not want to miss. Come hungry, with your dancing shoes/moves, and most importantly, with your big purses and wallets.
Truly, Giants Stand Tall! God bless you, God bless GSTS, and God Bless Ghana!
About Professor Yaw yeboah
Prof. Yaw D. Yeboah is professor of chemical and biomedical engineering and former dean at the Florida
A&M University – Florida State University College of Engineering. Until stepping down in June of 2015, he had been the Dean of the College of Engineering after moving from Penn State, where he was the Head of the Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering that runs programs in Energy Business and Finance, Energy Engineering, Environmental Systems Engineering, Mining Engineering, and Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering. Prior to joining Penn State, he was Professor of Engineering and Associate Dean for Science and Engineering at Clark Atlanta University.
After completing his General Certificate of Education (GCE “O” and “A” Levels) at the Ghana Secondary Technical School at Takoradi, Ghana, in 1971, Prof. Yeboah received a scholarship to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where in June 1975 he became the first person to receive four degrees within four years from MIT: BS degrees in chemical engineering, chemistry and management, and a MS in chemical engineering. He subsequently received his doctorate in chemical engineering also from MIT. Prof. Yeboah has over 40 years of research (academic and industrial), teaching and management experience.
Before going into academia, Prof. Yaw Yeboah worked at the General Electric Corporate Research and Development Center. His research expertise covers such areas as catalysis, bioenergy, fuel cells and energy conversion, combustion and emission control, oilfield scale formation, nanomaterials and materials characterization. He has published widely and has several patents in these areas. Some of his recent research projects include electrocatalysis/nanomaterials, catalytic gasification with eutectic salts, PEM fuel cells, hydrogen from biomass for transportation and stationary fuel cell power generation, fire spread behavior in liquid pools, and use of non-thermal plasma discharge for emission (NOx) control.
Prof. Yaw Yeboah is very passionate about his alma mater and chairs the Board of Trustees of the
GSTS Alumni Association of North America. He was Library Prefect at GSTS.