First-ever Lay VC at Kenya-based Catholic Institution of Higher Learning Takes Office

New Vice Chancellor Designate taking office at Kenya-based Tangaza University College (TUC): Left: Br. Tom Kearney, former Principal interim TUC handing over the Mace to Prof. David Wango'mbe on January 8, 2020
Credit: Tangaza University College

A Kenyan-born Professor of Accounting who was appointed last month to head Tangaza University College (TUC), the Nairobi-based Catholic Institution of higher learning, officially took office Wednesday, January 8 at an event witnessed by thousands of stakeholders, including students, faculty, members of TUC Consortium Trust (TCT), Board of Trustee, among others.

Speaking at the Wednesday morning event, Prof. David Wang’ombe who becomes the first-ever lay person at the helm of TUC, an affiliate College of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to lead the institution.

“I receive with gratitude this symbol of the Tangaza University College Educating Community,” Prof. Wang’ombe said while receiving the mace of power and added, “I am mindful that with it, I receive the fruit of the faith, love, dedication and professional expertise of generations of students, educators, sponsors and indeed the leadership of this College over the last 33 years.”

“It is with great humility that I accept the challenge of being the Vice-Chancellor Designate of Tangaza University College,” he said and described his appointment to the office as signaling “the great hope you have in me to steer this esteemed University College to the greatest heights.”

Plans are underway to have TUC, established in 1986, as a fully-fledged university and the appointment of Prof. Wang’ombe, previously Dean of the School of Management and Commerce at Strathmore University, is meant to facilitate the process of acquiring the University Charter from the Kenyan government under the Universities Act 2012.

Hinting to a collaborative approach in his leadership, the 49-year-old Prof. told TUC stakeholders, “We will work together to make Tangaza an outstanding University and making it known worldwide through recruiting and supporting students from all backgrounds, offering relevant and effective academic programmes and ensuring continuous curriculum transformation.”

He underscored his plans to further academic superiority at TUC, promising to work toward “promoting excellence in research and innovation by strengthening the research outputs, developing human capital and implementing management strategies to attract and retain talent and skills from diverse backgrounds and ensuring good financial management in all entities.”

Speaking to ACI Africa on the sidelines of the event that started with the celebration of Holy Mass, the Kenyan Prof. said, “I am really humbled with the gesture I have been shown to be welcomed with Mass, which is a very symbolic gesture of prayer.”

He added, “I think this is the advantage of being a lay person where everybody sees that I really need to be prayed for and I sincerely appreciate and I don’t take this for granted.”

The Prof. went on to thank TUC’s outgoing head, Br. Tom Kearney a member of the congregation of Christian Brothers saying, “I wish to specifically thank my predecessor for his invaluable service, his dedication and the leadership which he has provided Tangaza during his time as the Principal interim. I wish him well in his future endeavors and I hope to tap into his vast experience.”

On his part, Br. Kearney who has been the principal interim of TUC for the past 15 months shared his successes with ACI Africa saying, “What I hope to have achieved within my period of leadership is that people became more aware of the different things happening within Tangaza University College.”

“This I have done by publicizing various conferences, activities and events taking place here at the college which I was doing after a couple of weeks,” he said and continued, “I also tried to line up the things we are doing at TUC with the University regulations so that when the (University) Charter comes, everything will be running smoothly and there will be a smooth transition.”

The Christian Brother welcomed the new VC Designate and promised continued support as he resumes his previous ministry of being a lecturer in TUC’s Institution of Social Transformation (IST) and also offering counselling services.

In an interview with ACI Africa, the Chairman of the body that oversees the affairs of TUC as a Consortium Trust (TCT), Fr. Gary Mueller of the Congregation of the Mission (CM), explained the reasoning behind the choice of a lay person to head TUC, which is jointly owned by 22 religious orders and where most of the enrolled students pursue courses in philosophy and theology.

“What we wanted to do is to make sure that the charism of the communities will be respected and that this Institution grows as a Catholic Institution proud of its Catholic heritage, proud of its Catholic ethos and Catholic life,” Fr. Mueller explained.

“He (Prof. Wango’mbe) is not simply an ordinary layman, he is not simply an ordinary academician, he is a man of profound faith and he lives out his Catholic faith in a way that is visible,” Fr. Mueller who has been at the helm of TCT for five years emphasized.

He added, “Usually seminarians, (religious) Sisters, (religious) Brothers have very strong formation, we want to bring that element of strong formation in Catholic ethos, Catholic identity to the lay students who have come to us.”

The U.S.-born Vincentian cleric encouraged the new VC Designate “to continue drawing the support of the faculty and the staff, (and) to approach the sponsors of the institutions and religious communities for any help or assistance that he needs.”

TUC’s Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) designate for Academics, Salesian Fr. Selvam Sahaya added his voice to value of having a lay Catholic head the Institution saying, "I like the way things have turned up; having an African face will also make Tangaza look like a local Institution. It’s also good to have a person who not only knows philosophy and Church but also knows the world. I am happy that this has come about and I hope we will all cooperate and that Tangaza will move on."

Indian-born Fr. Selvam also told ACI Africa, “Tangaza should not focus on too much expansion at the moment. University education in Kenya is very competitive and we should focus on improving quality education.”

“So, expansion in terms of numbers and in terms of programs should be done strategically; we need to ensure sustainability and quality. There is a lot of enthusiasm but this has to be strategic,” Fr. Selvam told ACI Africa during the January 8 event.


ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]