To commemorate his many years of service at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), his extraordinary scientific contributions in livestock science to Ethiopia and across the world, and his deep devotion to his students and colleagues, a dedication ceremony was held on 4 March 2022 to rename the Ethiopia campus auditorium in honour of Azage Tegegne.
Azage Tegegne passed away suddenly on 12 January 2020, after a short illness. One of ILRI’s leading livestock scientists, project manager, and the director-general representative in Ethiopia, Azage Tegegne left behind his mother and children. Azage held numerous positions at ILRI, where his career spanned more than thirty years. He mentored 71 post-graduate students, co-authored hundreds of professional articles, and received more than twenty national and international awards for his work.
The ceremony was opened by Jimmy Smith, ILRI’s director general, who reminisced about first meeting Azage in April 1991 as a visiting job candidate, when ILRI was still the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA). Smith’s anecdote painted a generous image of Azage, who advised him on how to proceed in his interview with the panel the following day rather than questioning him. His recollection of Azage’s character and the programs he managed in Ethiopia, one of which was valued at USD 20 million—the Improving the Productivity and Market Success (IPMS) of Ethiopian farmers—shed light on the extensive reach of Azage’s impact. Smith remembered him as a ‘caring and compassionate person; endearing and always seeing ways to help others.’
‘Through the renaming of this auditorium,’ said Smith, ‘We hope that Azage the man and the things he stood for will be embedded and continue to be embedded through the use of this auditorium. And each time we enter, we will remember what he did and what he stood for, and we will try to live at least some of the aspects of Azage’s life.’
Smith’s introduction was followed by remarks from the president of the Ethiopian Society of Animal Production (ESAP), Daniel Temesgen. Daniel specifically remembered Azage’s contributions as a scientist and communicator. ‘He was a distinguished scientist, charismatic personality, and a gift to innovative thinking; a visionary spirit–he was a change agent,’ said Daniel. Daniel also mentioned Azage’s numerous service awards and his impact at ESAP.
Other speakers included several from ILRI: Tadelle Dessie, who announced a series of seminars currently underway in honour of Azage; Mulugeta Mekuria; and Amare Haileslassie. Azage’s son, Fitsum Azage, spoke, and his daughter, Bethel Azage, provided a note although she was not physically present.
Azage’s commitment to livestock science, his generosity, and his professionalism were recurring themes, as the morning’s speakers took to the podium. ‘Azage’s involvement with the development agencies was amazing,’ said Mulugeta, who emphasized Azage’s passion for serving humanity. ‘He could deal with everybody; he was a man on the ground dealing with people–farmers, scientists, etc., for him it was easy and ILRI was his second home.’
Amare, a friend, colleague, and former student of Azage, commented on his great leadership and efforts to transform livestock systems in Ethiopia, noting Azage’s impressive interpersonal skills and ability to mediate relationships with ease. The impact that Azage had on Haileslassie was evident, as he recalled learning ‘something from Azage in every conversation, whether about science or life outside of work’.
The most resonating commemorations at the ceremony were undoubtedly given by his family, who were represented by his son, Fitsum Azage, and daughter Bethel Azage, before the unveiling of the auditorium. Both remembered Azage the mentor and father--a man who, outside of work ‘has shown me that you have to maintain some kind of value’ said Fitsum Azage, ‘because ‘a person’s character matters most.’
Bethel, who was represented by Azage’s niece, Tsion Tesfaye, said, ‘He was never just my dad; he was my best friend when I needed advice, my teacher when I was confused, my hero when I was in crisis, my backbone when I was weak, my advisor when I was lost, and my Number One cheerleader whether I was winning or losing.’ She recalled her father as an endless source of wisdom and timeless advice, and a man dedicated to his country and work.
The ceremony closed as the auditorium was unveiled, and Azage’s family took to the stage alongside Jimmy Smith. ‘We all know how much you loved ILRI, and I hope today from somewhere high above you see how much ILRI loves you and appreciates you’, said Kumneger Tilahun, who moderated the ceremony.