Rice mourns loss of History’s Atieno Odhiambo

Rice mourns loss of History’s Atieno Odhiambo

Rice News staff

The Rice University community is mourning the loss of Atieno Odhiambo, professor of history, who passed away Feb. 25 in Kisumu, Kenya, at the age of 63. He had returned to Kenya earlier this academic year after being diagnosed with a degenerative illness. His burial ceremony will be March 7 in Siaya, Kenya.


A noted scholar in African history, Odhiambo came to Rice in 1989 and was highly recommended by his colleagues at Kenya’s Egerton University and University of Nairobi.

Martin Wiener, History Department chair, said, “In two decades at Rice, Atieno Obhiambo wrote several important books on the history of Kenya. But perhaps even more memorable than that work was his personal impact on many of us, who were fortunate to benefit from the wisdom of one who had long struggled against political injustice without ever losing his profound faith in his country. Our sympathies go out to his wife and children, in Kenya and in America, and to all those whose lives, like ours, he touched.”

Three of Odhiambo’s children attended Rice.

A Fulbright scholar at Syracuse University in 1978, Odhiambo later held a visiting professorship in African studies at Stanford University and later at Johns Hopkins University and Rice.

Odhiambo is the author, co-author, editor or co-editor of 14 books and numerous articles and book chapters. He is known for his contributions to the understanding of dangers inherent in the politics of knowledge and the sociology of power.

His scholarship excelled beyond the books he wrote and students he taught. He served as the deputy editor from 1976 to 1995 of the Journal of Eastern African Research and Development. He was the vice president of the Historical Association of Kenya; a member of the fellowship selection committee for the Joint Committee on African Studies, Social Science Research Council and the American Society of Learned Societies; and a member of the scientific committee for AFRICA ZAMANI: A Journal of African History.

He received his bachelor’s degree in 1970 from Makerere University College and doctorate in 1973 from the University of Nairobi.

Odhiambo is survived by his wife, Jane, and four children, Susan, Caroline ’94, Michael ’97 and Samson ’03.

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