Basil U. N. Igwe

Basil U. N. Igwe

Died 1995

Basil Uzodinma Nwanne Igwe was born September 2, 1941 in Umuihi- Ihitte, eastern Nigeria. He died in 1995 and is survived by his widow, Lorraine Tate, and their three children – Robin, Rozlyn and Chinwe.

Basil was one of five metallurgical engineering students in our class. After graduation, he obtained an M.S. at the University of Pittsburgh and went to work as a research metallurgist for Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corporation until 1972 and then as a project consultant for Arthur D. Little. In 1975 Basil returned to Nigeria to, as he put it in our 1990 class book, “participate in the planning and implementation of Nigeria’s emerging steel industry.”

He went on to work as a consultant for several Nigerian and international organizations dealing with Nigeria’s industrial and technological development. In 1989 he co-edited a book titled Capital Goods, Technological Change and Accumulation in Nigeria, bringing together the perspectives of both economists and engineers on the prospects for industrial development in Nigeria, which did not face the same constraints as other African economies – small size and lack of financial wherewithal to acquire the necessary scientific knowledge.

Writing for our 25th, Basil said his one “major disappointment” in life was “the apparent betrayal of the promise of Africa through a combination of bad and selfish leadership, poor socio-economic management and sheer lack of concern man for man.” Still, he held out hope “that sooner or later the developed world, which had raped the continent in years past and which milked (and continues to milk) Africa for all it is worth, will have a change of heart and make voluntary reparations.” He wrote eloquently of what it would take to realize Africa’s promise. “I have come to recognize and appreciate the absolute and tremendous beauty and order in all of God’s creation, a beauty and an order that man is always endeavoring to subvert. Thankfully, every once in a while, there is a resurgence of conscience and awareness seeking to restore beauty and order as originally ordained by God.”

Willem Cronje remembers: We had something in common – both from Africa. That deep bond is something to value. Basil was a thoughtful and sensitive man.

Joseph Altschuler remembers: Basil was one of the finest men I ever knew and I’m truly sorry that he was lost at such an early age. I always enjoyed visiting with my good friends on the other side of JE and I always sought out Basil’s description of Nigeria and his desire to return there after college to help his people. I hope his widow Lorraine is doing well. I think of them often. May Basil’s soul rest in peace.

Larry Taylor remembers: From playing table tennis with Basil to sharing a table with him and Lorraine at a dance to celebrating Nigerian independence from colonial rule, it was always uplifting and joyous to be with him. Serving in Nigeria with the Foreign Service was less of a challenge with my memories of his ideas and positive attitude.

Herbert Thomas remembers: Basil Igwe and his wife welcomed me and my wife to Nigeria not long after we arrived in Lagos for our first diplomatic assignment in 1975. I can’t remember what dishes they served us at their home, only that the spices were subtle and the food was delicious. Basil had earned a degree in metallurgy and was an early leader of the effort to build a steel mill in Nigeria. As often happens to ambitious projects in that country, the steel mill fell victim to political intrigues and corruption. I lost track of Basil after leaving Nigeria, and I wondered how he was faring – as regards his project, his health, and his personal safety. In 2007 the Yale Alumni Magazine listed Basil as having died – in 1995. May he rest in peace and may his widow and family keep in their hearts the memory of a skillful man who worked for the economic and technical advancement of his country.

Howard Bernstein remembers: Did not get to know him well enough.