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honoring the legacy of our founder

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Prince, Dr. Christian Adeyemi Akiwowo

One of the most beautiful things about Prince, Dr. Christian Adeyemi Akiwowo was his ability to see the humanity in all people and afford that respect to others (until proven otherwise). He truly believed in fairness and equality for all. His best friend and brother Chief Christian Nze says he was a true Nigerian who didn’t segregate himself to his Yoruba tribe alone. He didn’t give preference to his tribe over others. Instead, he reached out to other Nigerian groups and treated them all equally.


He carried that sense of fellowship with him when he relocated to the United States, treating Black Americans, Afro Caribbeans and other members of the African diaspora as brothers and sisters. And that sense of humanity, that unselfish desire to want better for others is a truly remarkable attribute. That trait also made him a standout mental health professional and a philanthropic pillar in his community.


He was an exceptional human being and a great human rights defender. Christian didn’t like to see other people being treated poorly. He would speak up if he did. That’s the type of person he was and that is why he remains so beloved today.


On August 15, 2023, Prince, Dr. Christian Adeyemi Akiwowo transitioned into the bosom of God surrounded by his family and loved ones. Christian is preceded in death by his parents, Pa. Oladipo Fasesobi and Esther Ajoke Akiwowo, and his brother Kehinde Akiwowo. Christian loved his family immensely and didn’t think twice about mentoring or helping to care for others. His love and care for other people extended well beyond the family he built with his adoring wife, Gladys Olufunmilayo, and their four children, Christopher Adewale, Taiwo Adebola, Kehinde Adebisi and Idowu Adekunle. It was vast and palpable, reflected in the many communities that he served and in the nearly fifty years he spent working with children and families as a counseling psychologist with clinical expertise. He truly wanted the same for others as he wanted for himself.


He is deeply loved and will be profoundly missed.


Prince, Dr. Christian Adeyemi Akiwowo was born in Lagos, Nigeria, on March 31, 1947, the third of seven children born to Pa. Oladipo F. Akiwowo and Madam Esther A. Akiwowo (née Babalola). From his parents, Christian inherited a sense of responsibility, hard work, kindness, and generosity to others, which was evident in his professional work and social endeavors.


Given these character traits, it should come as no surprise that Christian, who is also affectionately known as “Doc,” would choose to work in a field that helped numerous disadvantaged youths. Christian descends from a line of royalty on his father’s side of the family. On his mother’s side, he is a descendant of Prince Harry Somide Coker of Iporo–Ake, Abeokuta. Christian hails from the Ajibosin line of Royal Descendants of Ago-Owu, Abeokuta, Ogun State. He is from the Egba tribe in southwest Nigeria.


Christian’s paternal grandfather, Akinola Otutumope was given the name “Akiwowo bi ojo” – which was given to him based on his wealth of knowledge of the Ifa (divination) tradition – because he was an exceptional Ifa priest. The name was later shortened to Akiwowo. And like his grandfather, Christian continued the Akiwowo family’s commitment of service to others and offering guidance to those in need.


The seeds were planted early for Christian to pursue educational excellence. Christian completed his primary school education at Christ Church UNA School, Oyingbo, Lagos, in 1961. It was in high school, at St. Peter’s College, Olomore, Abeokuta, where Christian demonstrated his excellent leadership and business skills, earning recognition from the school’s principal who named him as a discipline enforcer. Christian’s leadership skills also transferred to the soccer field during this time. As a freshman and throughout his high school years, he played on the high school varsity football (soccer) team, representing the Nigerian Western Academicals Football Team in 1965 and 1966 as team captain. During his senior year, Christian was fielded to play with the Ibadan Lions of the West football team against the Congo Kinshasa football team. He graduated from St. Peter’s College in 1966 and the following year was drafted by and played for the Nigerian Ports Authority. The Nigerian Ports Authority won the league championship in 1970, his final year with the team. Christian never set out to become a professional soccer player. The opportunity presented itself when his employer at the time discovered he was a skilled player and asked him to join the company’s team. Though Christian was a member of his elementary and high schools’ soccer teams, he actually honed his skills while playing with other boys in the small fields that surrounded his childhood neighborhood. “The love of the game started from those neighborhood pick-up games,” his brother Olatunji remembers.


Soccer reinforced the values that Christian’s parents instilled in him. Soccer also played a role in his growth in the way he dealt with adversity and his abilities to problem solve effectively and work as a part of a team. And he tried to instill the same thing in the young people who crossed his path. Soccer wasn’t the only thing that captured Christian’s attention during this time. There was another love blossoming, one for his high school sweetheart, Gladys Olufunmilayo Omokaiye. Christian adored Gladys and was very smitten with her. And she felt the same way about him. So, of course, they had to marry! They solidified their loving union on April 29, 1970. Shortly thereafter, the newlyweds left for the United States to further their studies. When the new Mr. and Mrs. Akiwowo arrived in Chicago, they settled on the city’s South Side, excited about the adventures that were to come. Christian continued his interest in soccer and was a founding member of Chicago’s Pan-African Soccer Team in 1970. His prowess on the field drew the attention of sports scouts, including one from the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay (UWGB), where Christian earned a full soccer scholarship. He graduated from UWGB in 1974, earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration. But during his time at the university, Christian was an NAIA All-American and an NSCAA All-American.


He was selected to the Wisconsin All-State Team all three years and, in 1972, was also selected as one of the Outstanding College Athletes of America. In 1973, he was selected UWGB MVP. During the college off-season, Christian played for the Milwaukee Brewers Soccer Club in 1971 and 1972 before going to the Milwaukee Kickers in 1973, where he played until 1977. While with the Milwaukee Kickers, he was selected to the Wisconsin All-Star team in 1975, 1976 and 1977. Although he was involved in Wisconsin soccer throughout the 1970s, Christian remained very much involved with the Chicago Pan-African Soccer Team he helped found. In 1976, Christian became a founding member of the Gazelle Soccer Team, now known as the Gazelle Social Club. Christian’s involvement with Gazelle continued throughout the remainder of his life, with him serving as the organization’s most recent chairman. To say that Gazelle was a huge part of Christian’s life is a bit of an understatement. In addition to serving as Gazelle’s chairman,


Christian also spent the last 30 years serving in various roles including as a coach, president, administrator and patron for this beloved club. This past Fourth of July, Gazelle celebrated its 46th anniversary of the annual picnic it holds on this American holiday. Christian spearheaded this legacy as a way to unify Nigerian American families from across the U.S. as well as other Chicago area Africans and Black Americans. Thousands would flock to Jackson Park, and recently to its current Washington Park location, yearly. During these celebrations, Christian could be seen mentoring young soccer proteges on the field, offering counsel to others or taking the mic, singing and playing various tunes on his keyboard (Christian loved to sing and play the piano!). In 1996, and as one of the founding board members, Christian led Gazelle in teaming with its counterpart, the Washington Eagles Soccer Club, to start the Nigeria Soccer Festival USA. This festival has become a yearly soccer event attracting 15 to 20 teams nationally and internationally. The Gazelle community also embraced and helped Nigerians who were new to America and provided various levels of support as they adjusted to life here.


In between furthering his education and kicking butt on the soccer field, Christian and Gladys expanded their family. They welcomed their firstborn son, Christopher Adewale. Five years later, they celebrated the birth of their twin daughters, Taiwo Adebola and Kehinde Adebisi, and four years after that, their baby boy, Idowu Adekunle. The Akiwowos would go on to raise their children in Chicago and its suburbs, Bellwood and Flossmoor. Even with a young family, Christian continued his academic and professional pursuits. One person who heavily reinforced Christian’s academic and intellectual diligence was his uncle, Professor Akinsola Ayodele Akiwowo. Uncle Akinsola was an internationally renowned sociologist and anthropologist who pioneered provocative issues in sociological theory on the importance of oral literature. This motivated Christian to excel academically and continue his clinical, academic and research work, pursuits to which he had been committed since 1975. Having already obtained a master’s degree in educational psychology from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee in 1977, Christian would earn a doctoral degree in counseling psychology from Loyola University Chicago five years later.


That same year, Christian became an adjunct professor in both the Human Services and Psychology departments at National Louis University in Evanston, Illinois. There, he designed and taught undergraduate and graduate courses in mental health, psychology of adjustment, crisis intervention, principles and dynamics of interviewing, transcultural counseling and research methodology in behavioral sciences, among others.


For more than forty years, Christian led workshops to train parents, psychologists, social workers, and other health care and human services professionals in child abuse evaluation and treatment. He also maintained a private practice and offered consultative services in the mental health field. He worked simultaneously as director of behavioral sciences for the Pediatric Ecology Program at both Mount Sinai Hospital and Grant Hospital in Chicago from 1987 through 2009.


Christian founded and served as executive director of Ibukun Comprehensive Community Services, a licensed not-for-profit child welfare agency that operates a residential treatment facility for male youth who suffered abuse and/or behavioral issues. Before establishing Ibukun, Christian served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Alajobi Rehabilitative Services, a residential treatment center for teenage boys he founded in 1994 and operated through 2006. His work with Alajobi led him to be the first recipient of the “Minority Business Man of the Year’’ award, given by the Illinois Rich Township Business Association in 2002. Christian loved his work and making a difference in the lives of troubled young boys. It gave him joy and satisfaction as a human being, his brother Olatunji remembers.


Christian’s professional affiliations and memberships were impressive. He was a certified and full associate instructor of Cornell University’s Residential Child Care Project’s National Therapeutic Crisis Intervention. He had memberships in the American Psychological Association and the American Association of Christian Counselors and was a lifetime member and diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Examiners. In 1994 and 2009, he was inducted into the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay Phoenix Hall of Fame and the Wisconsin Soccer Hall of Fame, respectively. In 2004, the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay donned Christian with its Distinguished Alumni Award.


Christian leaves behind to cherish his memory and continue his everlasting legacy, his beloved wife of 53 years, Gladys Olufunmilayo Akiwowo; his devoted children Christopher Adewale Akiwowo, Taiwo Adebola Akiwowo-Jones (Daryl Jones), Kehinde Adebisi Akiwowo (Anthony Jordan) and Idowu Adekunle Akiwowo (Jennifer Barber); his loving grandchildren, Jaron Ayomide Akiwowo, Jaelah Tomiwa Akiwowo, Kristian Oluwadara Akiwowo and Joshua Olugbenga Akiwowo; his devoted siblings, Olusina Akiwowo, Olujimi Akiwowo, Taiwo Akiwowo, Adeola Akiwowo and Olatunji Akiwowo; and a countless number of cousins, nieces, nephews, other family members and friends. He left an enormous footprint, one that will never be replaced. But the individuals whose lives he touched immensely will undoubtedly endeavor to carry forth his legacy each and every day.

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