A world-class university committed to scholarly excellence

Prof. Wangari Muta Maathai

Printer-friendly versionSend by email

Wangari Muta Maathai – modest in excellence

Professor Wangari Maathai has won many firsts. In 1971, she became the first woman to obtain a PhD (from the University of Nairobi) in East and Central Africa. She was also the first feminine professor in the region in 1976 when she became the first (again) lady chair of the Veterinary Anatomy department at the University of Nairobi. In 2004, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, again becoming the first woman from Sub-Saharan Africa to receive this coveted prize.

But her firsts have not come easy. Born in the dark days of colonial Kenya, Wangari dared take a path that many of her contemporaries wouldn’t. She took the road less travelled and excelled paving a highway through which many other people have travelled to success. She has faced many challenges but remained unbowed even in the hands of rogue police men and their political godfathers, greedy land-grabbers and shameless indigenous tree loggers in Kenya and beyond. She remains a fervent fighter for democracy, human rights, equity and peaceful coexistence for all Kenyans and indeed all humankind through environmental conservation.

Professor Maathai has won many awards including the Disney Conservation Award (2006), the Paul Harris Fellow (2005), the Sophie Prize (2004), the Petra Kelly Prize for Environment (2004), the Conservation Scientist Award (2004), J. Sterling Morton Award (2004), WANGO Environment Award (2003), Outstanding Vision and Commitment Award (2002), Excellence Award from the Kenyan Community Abroad (2001), Golden Ark Award (1994), Juliet Hollister Award (2001), Jane Adams Leadership Award (1993), Edinburgh Medal (1993), UN's Africa Prize for Leadership (1991), Goldman Environmental prize (1991), the Woman of the World (1989), Windstar Award for the Environment (1988), Better World Society Award (1986), Right Livelihood Award (1984) and the Woman of the Year Award (1983).

Professor Maathai was also listed 6th in the Environment Agency (UK) peer review of the world’s Top 100 Eco-Heroes. She was also included in UNEP's Global 500 Hall of Fame and named one of the 100 heroines of the world. She has also received honorary doctoral degrees from several institutions around the world: Williams College (1990), Hobart & William Smith Colleges (1994), University of Norway (1997), Yale University (2004), Willamette College (2005), University of California at Irvine (2006), and Morehouse University (2006).

For the latest achievements, remember to visit Wangari Maathai Institute of Environmental and Peace Studies