The Indiana Conference Delegation presents a ceremonial check to the leadership of Africa University. Photo Credit: Vicki Brown (UNMS)

By Skyler Nimmons and Vicki Brown
April 1, 2015 | MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS) – The Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church presented $1 million for an endowed chair of agriculture and natural resources for Africa University, continuing a long conference tradition of major support for the United Methodist university.
“In Indiana, we know about and celebrate the ministry of Africa University,” said Indiana Conference Bishop Michael Coyner during the presentation ceremony in Africa, “and we appreciate the witness that you are here in Africa and to the world.”
Coyner said the conference, beginning with the tenure of Bishop Woodie White, now retired, has a long history of backing significant projects to support Africa University. That support started with building building of four three-story dorms at the university.
The bishop noted that people of Indiana wanted to do something special in honor of Africa University’s 20th anniversary in 2012, but wanted to consult with the university about what their needs might be. A request was made for an endowed chair to lead the Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The commitment to raise that money in Indiana was followed by an Africa University choir tour of the conference in 2013. The United Methodist Foundation of Indiana assisted with the fundraising.
The endowment presentation was held in conjunction with the inauguration ceremonies for the university’s fourth vice chancellor, Munashe Furusa. Furusa thanked the conference for “a gift that will last as long as the university exists.”
“One professor or chair can touch hundreds of lives through the courses they teach, the students they mentor, or through their own academic work. Having endowed faculty means students get to rub elbows with the most talented scholars in the world,” Furusa said. 
He also noted that endowed faculty can open up real world opportunities for students, such as work in research labs. “They not only learn from textbooks, but from a real world of innovation and discovery,” Furusa said. He further stated that endowed professorships are crucial for recruiting and training the best minds, most creative researchers and engaged teachers.
The Indiana Conference isn’t done yet with its support of Africa University.
Bishop Coyner said that the conference is also committed to raising an additional $600,000 to endow scholarships for students to learn the importance of agriculture. “Nearly half of our $600,000 goal has been raised; however, money is being sent to AU Development Office, the United Methodist Foundation and the Conference Office, so we aren’t sure exactly where we are at the moment,” Coyner said.
During the presentation ceremony, Coyner and Manet Shettle, president of the United Methodist Foundation of Indiana, presented a framed picture of a local farm in Indiana to Africa University. They noted that while the picture is not of any particular farm, farming and agriculture are an important part of Hoosier culture and the conference was pleased to support something that is so close to home.
A. Z. Chiteka, dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said the Indiana Conference knows and values the mission of Africa University and has demonstrated a commitment to helping the school and its students succeed.
 “If I had to list all the things that the Indiana Conference has done to support Africa University, I would need more than an hour,” Chiteka said.
Jim Salley, associate vice chancellor for Africa University’s Development Office, commended Bishop Coyner and the Indiana Conference for their generosity.
“There is an old proverb which states, ‘A sign of a mature society is when men and women plant trees whose shade they will never sit in,’” he said. Salley noted that the Indiana Conference gifts were those of mature leaders who may never have the opportunity to see or meet someone from Africa University, but have planted seeds for young people to grow.
Africa University’s world-renowned choir closed the endowment celebration with lively songs of celebration to offer thanks to the delegation that traveled from Indiana.
For more information on the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church’s campaign to support Africa University, please visit
Nimmons is the Indiana Conference communications director and Brown is the news editor for United Methodist News Service. You can reach Brown at 615-742-5472 or Nimmons can be reached at 317-564-3242 or