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College alumnus remembering his classmate

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June 29, 2017

Robert Hamilton '72 Civil Engineering writes his memories of his classmate, Ambassador Konah Blackett '72 Economics and Business Administration following his untimely passing.

Ambassador BlackettI knew Konah quite well while we were at the University together.  From different continents, different races, and different backgrounds, we became brothers in so many ways, and that friendship lasted until his untimely death in March 2017.

Konah was born in 1947 and raised in Monrovia, Liberia, graduated from Monrovia College, earned a scholarship to the U of D., and came to the University in 1972, enrolling in the College of Business.

Outside of his academic accomplishments, Konah played forward for the University Club Soccer Team for all four years, regularly leading in scoring, including scoring the winning goal his junior year when the team won the Michigan Cup, besting the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor 2-0 in the final.

Konah was a friendly, happy carefree spirit who seemed to get along with everyone and to enjoy every aspect of life and his college experience.    He graduated in 1972 with a BA in Economics and Business Administration, left the USA and went back to serve his home nation of Liberia.

Konah initially worked with Liberian Telecommunications Corp, then moved to the Liberian Ministry of Finance, joining the Liberian Foreign Service in 1978, and serving for nearly 40 years

Konah started at the Liberian Embassy in Belgium and Luxembourg, serving as the First Secretary, and by 1979, became the Charge d’Affairs.

In 1982, he moved to the same post in Nigeria, and in 1990 was reassigned to the mission to the United Nations, serving as Minister Consul.    From 1992 to 1998, he served as the Charge d’Affairs for the Liberian Embassy to the United States.

From 1998 to 2005, Konah left the Foreign Service due to the political turmoil and civil war in Liberia.  With a change of governments in 2005, he returned to the Foreign Service and was appointed the Ambassador to Egypt, Syria and Jordan, where he served until 2010.

From 2010 until his untimely death in March 2017, he served as the Ambassador to seven Middle Eastern nations, and he and his wife, Michele quartered at the Liberian Embassy in Kuwait City, Kuwait.  Liberia maintains eighteen embassies throughout the world.

Ambassador Blackett was welcome in every nation in which he served and developed a strong reputation for honesty and integrity with all he met and worked with.

Konah’s special talent appears to have been his ability to encourage and promote investment in Liberia by Middle Eastern governments, with major success in Kuwait.  These investments and partnerships were beneficial to all parties.

Konah’s greatest accomplishment was to help guide the nation of Liberia from a state financial disaster, with national debt exceeding 800% of the GDP to approximately 0.5% of that level.  His financial knowledge and integrity helped Liberia attract foreign investment, reduce internal corruption, and increase tourism.

The Ambassador had attended a Ministry Conference in Liberia and was travelling back to Kuwait when he suffered a stroke in Lagos, Nigeria, between connecting flights.  Ten days later, the Ambassador suffered heart failure and on March 29, 2017, died in Nigeria.  

Ambassador Blackett is survived by his wife, Michele, his children, Konah, Tanneh and Jamal, and four grandchildren, all living in the United States.  Plus, he is survived by four siblings, three of whom live in the United States.    Funeral services have been held in North Carolina.  

Commentary

I served as the Soccer Team Coach and Captain and Konah was a valued asset to that team.  He was truly a special person, one that I feel very honored to be able to call a friend.  His constant upbeat friendly approach was valuable and helped the Team survive and thrive during those years.  We lost touch while he was moving around in his nation’s service, reconnecting in 2005 due to the Internet, and remaining in regular contact for the years since then. 

He is certainly the only future Ambassador I ever went to school with and likely the only Ambassador I will ever know.  I knew he would serve his nation well, but neither of us had any idea how or how well he would do so, while we were in school.

This was a unique graduate of the University of Detroit Mercy and one we should honor.  Detroit Mercy graduates are a diverse group, and accomplishments likewise vary.  This one was certainly special.

~ Robert B. Hamilton BSCE '72

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