Lifting as she climbs
Alumnus brings an engineering perspective to United Nations University.
Tshilidzi Marwala ’95, PhD, came to Case to learn mechanical engineering and ended up teaching everyone he could.
In March, he became the seventh rector, or president, of the United Nations University, continuing his ascent as an international educator.
With institutes and programs in a dozen nations, the United Nations University works with leading universities and research institutes to bring science to bear on pressing global problems.
Marwala is the first African to lead the university, and his appointment sparked pride and good wishes in South Africa, where he was vice chancellor and principal of the University of Johannesburg.
His new job is based in Tokyo, where he moved with his wife and the youngest of their three children. Thanks to Case, Marwala had some experience with Japanese food and culture.
At the Case School of Engineering in the early 1990s, he befriended two students from Japan — Yoichiro Endo ’96, MS ’98, and Takashi Matsumoto ’95, MS ’98. They introduced him to sushi in Cleveland and he has been a fan ever since, he told the Sunday World, a Johannesburg newspaper. Another international student, Adeyinka Adedeji, MS ’93, PhD ’95, became a mentor.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, Marwala went on for his master’s at the University of Pretoria. He earned his doctorate in engineering and artificial intelligence at the University of Cambridge and has taught all over the world.
In addition to visiting scholar positions at universities in the US, the UK and China, he has served on many global and national policymaking bodies and with UN organizations like UNESCO, UNICEF, and WHO.
Marwala is the author of more than 20 books, including Leading in the 21st Century: The Call for a New Type of African Leader.
He maintains his connection to CWRU as a member of the Visiting Committee of the Center for International Affairs.