Kenyanís rise from US college janitor to president
By Allan Kisia
Dr Benson Karanja remembers how he once worked as a janitor at Beulah Bible College in Atlanta, US, to pay for his tuition and upkeep.
Dr Benson Karanja
As a janitor he was responsible for cleaning offices and bathrooms at the college and cutting grass. That was in 1988. Sixteen years later he became president of the same college. Karanja, who hails from Njoro in Nakuru District, became the first African immigrant in the US to hold such a coveted position.
Beulah Bible College is a private not-for-profit institution and one of the fastest growing in southeastern US. Before he got a work permit, Karanja says, raising fees was difficult and he had to work for 60 hours every week to make ends meet. His wife, Esther, did her best to help by working as a house-help.
Today, at 50, Karanja is a busy man who jets around the world making decisions at very high levels.
"Working as a janitor trained me to appreciate everybody. Even those people who clean offices are very important in any organisation," he says.
He was the only student janitor at the college then and though he was skilled in other jobs, they were not readily available for immigrants, he says.
"People come to my office and are amazed at how big it is, but they donít know how many times I came to the same office to collect garbage," he says.
Karanja says he takes a lot of interest in whatever he does, adding: "I am a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of man."
As a student, he completed his first degree in Biblical Education in two-and-a-half-years and enrolled at Emory University for a masterís course. He then got a job with a large organisation as managing director for the Middle East and Europe region.
Later, Beulah offered him a job as a teacher and librarian. He applied and got a permanent residence status in the US, which allowed him to apply for loans and scholarships. He successfully pursued a doctorate degree and later rose to the vice-presidentís post in charge of student services.
Projects in Kenya
After excelling in the position, he was appointed executive vice-president and finally president of the college, he says. He invited Kenyan Government officials to attend his inauguration.
Currently, Beulah has students from 32 countries, out of which 70 are Kenyans. More than 500 Kenyans have gone through the college. Karanja says the college has invested more than Sh1.4 billion in various projects in Kenya.
"My objective is to continue investing in the lives of young people. That is why I come back year after year," he says.
The college, he adds, is currently building a hospital in Nakuru and funding the setting up of the Presbyterian University of East Africa. The college also sponsors ten local scholars to train in church leadership in the US yearly, he says.
The scholars spend a week in the country, in a programme that has gone on for eight years. Karanja says he is organising a meeting between business people from the US and their Kenyan counterparts, to be held in Nairobi.
The meeting, he says, would seek to promote investment in Kenya. Beulah offers degrees in Biblical education, urban ministries and leadership studies. It also offers courses in Christian counselling and inter-cultural studies.
The State of Georgia Non-Public Secondary Education Commission approved the college. It is an accredited member of the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS). It is also an accredited member of the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE).
The college has more than 650 students from over 400 different churches across the globe, representing more than 45 denominations. It specialises in reaching out to adult students. The average student age is 38 years, while the male to female ratio is 50 to 50.
Beulahís mission is to be a centre of academic excellence, a resource centre for the church and other ministries and an agent for change.