In Memoriam

Associate Professor of French Lifongo Vitende.
Photo by Marhias Reed.

On Thursday, Jan. 30, Lifongo Vetinde, professor of French and Francophone studies at Lawrence passed away.

The following is a campus-wide notice from Provost and Dean of the Faculty Catherine Gunther Kodat:

Dear  Lawrentians,

It is with a truly heavy heart that I share the news of the passing of Lifongo Vetinde, a beloved member of our Lawrence family.

Lifongo, a professor of French who came to Lawrence in 1996 and did remarkable work on and off campus for nearly a quarter century, died Thursday evening following surgery. We are working with his family to plan a campus memorial service. Information will be shared as it becomes available.

A scholar of Francophone literature and cinema, Lifongo was a brilliant teacher. He led Lawrence’s Francophone Seminar program in Dakar, Senegal, on multiple occasions, and he earned a Fulbright Teaching and Research Fellowship that took him to Senegal for 10 months in the 2012-13 academic year.

A native of Cameroon, he was committed to teaching about the African continent. He also was devoted to working on issues of social justice, diversity, and inclusion throughout his career.

His primary love was teaching. He embraced Lawrence’s small class sizes because it allowed him to engage one-on-one with his students.

His friendships with colleagues across campus were deep and impactful.

Three years ago, I had the good fortune to present Lifongo to the Board of Trustees when he was promoted to full professor. It was a special pleasure for me because his areas of research included the work of the great Senegalese film director and writer Ousmane Sembène, whose novel God’s Bits of Wood I had taught for years. My admiration for Lifongo grew steadily from that early, happy connection as I came to know his work as a scholar; his warm, unassuming and generous nature; and, above all, his selfless commitment to his students.

Lifongo’s membership on the Tenure Committee this past year allowed further fine qualities to shine, including his integrity, his ability to balance empathy with rigor, and his sense of fairness.

For more on Lifongo and his impact at Lawrence, see a story here.

Space for sharing and grieving is available in Sabin House and is being set up in Main Hall.  These are places where people can leave messages for Lifongo’s family. The family has set up a tribute site that can be accessed at Support services are available through Spiritual and Religious Life and the Wellness Center.   

Lifongo was a cherished member of our community; he will be sorely missed.

Yours truly,