An International Friendship

March, 2005

In January 2005, President Donald P. Wharton welcomed Dr. Octave Houdegbe to PSU. Houdegbe studied political science at Plymouth State with Professor Peng-Khuan Chong from 1973 to 1975. Houdegbe says he longed to visit his “favorite college” again, so when President Wharton issued an invitation to visit PSU, he gladly accepted. The two presidents initiated discussions about possible faculty and student exchanges.

Upon receiving his Ph.D. in economics at UNH, Houdegbe served as special assistant and roving ambassador to the president of the Central African Republic for 12 years. While he kept a busy and hectic pace, he was always in touch with Professor Chong, discussing education and development in Third World countries.

In 1997, Houdegbe founded the Houdegbe North American University Benin, with schools of business administration and economics; medicine and pharmacy; international affairs, political science and law; an institute of languages and school translations; and an institute of technology, applied science and the school of architecture.

Chong, a member of the Board of Governors at HNAUB, received an honorary doctorate in political science from the institution in 2004 for “being one of the first to encourage the founder and president to drink deep into the Aegeian well of academic excellence …” He spent two weeks at Houdegbe University, lecturing on globalization and development in the Third World, and developing a curriculum for the Kwame Nkrumah School of International Affairs, Political Science and Law.

While there, Chong negotiated with the Libyan director of the Islamic Center, Dr. Fathi Klalifa Sned, for the use of the Kaddafy-built hospital in Porto Novo by HNAUB medical students. Chong was the first American Sned had met after the restoration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Libya in June 2004.

“The students, who came mostly from Benin, Equitorial Guinea, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo, were very keen to learn and extremely hardworking,” says Chong. He hopes that more PSU professors will have the opportunity to visit and teach there. —Marcia L. Santore

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