East-Central Africa Division

Ella Smith Simmons Delivers Inaugural Public Lecture at Adventist University of Africa

The Adventist University of Africa was challenged to bring about positive sustainable change in the societies it influences through leadership development.

Janet Oyiende-Kariuki, with ANN Staff
Ella Smith Simmons Delivers Inaugural Public Lecture at Adventist University of Africa

Photo: Janet Oyiende-Kariuki

Ella Smith Simmons, a former general vice president of the General Conference (GC) in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, delivered the inaugural public lecture at Adventist University of Africa (AUA). The lecture was held at the university's prestigious campus on Wednesday, April 24, 2024.

Dr. Simmons, known for her remarkable contributions to the global Seventh-day Adventist community, took center stage as she shared her thoughts on the theme "What difference does it make? Leading for positive societal transformation." Dr. Simmons reminded the audience of the urgent need for unique leadership in Africa, which is underscored by a myriad of challenges, from climate change and food insecurity to healthcare accessibility and peacekeeping efforts. Dr. Simmons emphasized that leadership for positive change in society requires individuals who are committed to social transformation, well-educated, competent, ethical and who have spiritual intelligence. She made a rallying call for social change leadership that rests on the principles of social responsibility, collaboration, inclusivity, and values-driven decision-making, aiming to create a better world for all.

AUA was challenged to bring about positive sustainable change in the societies it influences through leadership development, emphasizing relevance and excellence in research, teaching, and service. The university was tasked to ensure that its teaching, research, and social action are informed by realistic views of future challenges and breakthroughs, balancing the need for continued social change with cautious optimism. By embracing the integration of faith and education, AUA was called to provide leadership for service and address public needs while upholding high standards for ethical direction and social contributions.

Her words resonated with the audience, inspiring all present to reflect on the importance of nurturing and developing future leaders who will carry forward the mission and values of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Elder Geoffrey Mbwana, GC vice president and AUA council chair, Dr. Harrington Akombwa, AUA chancellor, Dr. Lisa Beardsly-Hardy, GC education director, Elder George Egwakhe, GC associate treasurer, and Dr. Blasious Ruguri, East-Central Africa Division president, attended the event among other University Council members, a representative from the Commission of University Education-Kenya as well as faculty, staff, and students of the university. Elder Mbwana commended Dr. Simmons for her dedication to education and leadership development within the Adventist community. The University administration expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to host such a distinguished speaker and highlighted the university's commitment to foster excellence in education and research.


The representative from the Commission of University Education-Kenya praised the deliberate efforts by AUA to effect positive societal transformation and challenged the univeristy to increase a broader reach for a wider impact.  

The faculty and staff of AUA were deeply inspired by Dr. Simmons' lecture, with many expressing their admiration for her vision and leadership in advancing education and mission-driven work within the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Dr. Simmons is the first woman elected general vice president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and completed three full terms and a two-year extension before retiring in 2022. In her service, she provided leadership in education, administrative consultation, coaching, and evaluation, with spiritual support to Church leaders worldwide. She advised three General Conference departments, chaired the Seventh-day Adventist International Board of Education (IBE), the Board of Trustees of the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS), and the University Council (Board) of the AUA. In addition, she served as vice chairperson to the International Board of Ministerial and Theological Education (IBMTE), the Adventist Accrediting Association (AAA), and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), and as member on numerous administrative and ministry-based committees.

Dr. Simmons is married to her husband, Nord, a retired high school teacher and electrical contracting business owner. They have two sons who are educators, two daughters-in-law, a granddaughter, two grandsons, and two great-grandchildren.

As the event came to a close, attendees left with a renewed sense of purpose and a shared commitment to positive societal transformation in their places of influence. The public lecture will be held annually to serve as a beacon of inspiration for the future of governance and leadership within the Seventh-day Adventist community and the world.

This article was provided by the Adventist University of Africa. 

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