When Professor Robert Serpell joined the University of Zambia in October 1965 as an expatriate research fellow in the newly established Human Development Research Unit of the Institute of Social Research later to be named as Institute of Economic and Social Research (INESOR), little did he know about the long career he would have at the University of Zambia (UNZA). He was later to be part of UNZA’s small core academic staff to welcome the first students at Ridgeway campus in March 1966, giving lectures to those pioneer students who include many notable members of present-day Zambia
Prof Serpell has had a fruitful career of more than 50 years in academia which we are celebrating today. He served in different portfolios during his academic career both at UNZA and away from UNZA. He served as Head of Department in the Psychology Department (1976; 1987-1989); Director for the Institute of African Studies (1977 – 1983); and Vice Chancellor (2003).
As an academic member of staff, Prof Serpell participated in teaching and supervision of both undergraduate and postgraduate students in the Department of Psychology and other institutions locally and internationally, including several of the current members of staff in the Psychology Department. He also participated in curriculum development.
Prof Serpell has also published (and continues to publish) vastly and is a highly recognized developmental scientist across the world. Some of his published books include “culture’s influence on behaviour” and “the significance of school: life journeys in African society.” In 2007, he was invited by the international society for the study of behavioural development to convene its first 21st biennial International Congress in 2010 in Lusaka, the first and only (to date) to be held in Africa. This event was a huge success and included almost 700 research presentations and participants from more than 50 countries across the world. In 2011, in cooperation with the University of Jyvaskyla, he set up the centre for the promotion of literacy in sub-Sahara which he coordinated.
Until his retirement, Professor Robert Serpell, continued to teach; supervise; mentor; conduct and promote research and publication about cultural aspects of child development, intelligence, multilingualism, assessment and public policy, with special attention to the sub-Saharan African region
Prof Serpell will be remembered for being consistent, hardworking and taking a firm stance. he was very good at encouraging initiative and cultivating teamwork and mentoring members of staff.
LESSONS FOR US
The words of Sir Isaac Newton sum up what we can learn from Prof Serpell's career – if I have seen further, it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants. His legacy will live with us for many more years to come and if we are to do better, we do ourselves well by building on the foundation he has set up for us.
LESSONS FOR HIM AND THE FUTURE
My final tribute can be best expressed in the words of Paul to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:7) – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race…”
I know Prof Serpell has prepared well for this transition into retirement. Prof, I wish you all the best, moving forward. Congratulations on a wonderful career, and best wishes for the next phase - it has been our pleasure to know you and to work with you. To you and your family, and on behalf of the University Community, I wish you long life, health and more happiness.
Professor Enala-Tembo Mwase