His Grace Michael K. Francis
Chancellor of the Polytechnic
Archbishop Catholic Archdiocese of Monrovia
Stella Maris Polytechnic is the outgrowth of the Arthur Barclay Technical Institute -ABTI (first named Arthur Barclay Vocational Institute).
In 1972, Mrs. Antoinette Padmore Tubman niece of President Arthur Barclay donated to the Catholic Church four acres of land on 8th Street for the establishment of a vocational school for girls. In 1973, Most Rev. Archbishop Francis Dermot Carroll, SMA, Vicar Apostolic of Monrovia and Pro-Nuncio Apostolic contacted MISEREOR to fund such a school. MISEREOR agreed to fund same and approved the plans. MISEREOR is a Catholic German based humanitarian foundation of the German Catholic Bishops Conference. It provides some level of funding for different Church related projects in various parts of the world). It was agreed between MISEREOR and the Vicariate of Monrovia after several meetings, to establish a technical school with Departments in Wood Work, Masonry, Home Economics and Secretarial Sciences.
In February, 1976, Archbishop Francis Carroll, SMA, resigned and in October, 1976, Rev. Father Michael Kpakala Francis was appointed his successor, Vicar Apostolic of Monrovia. He was ordained Bishop of Monrovia on December 19, 1976. One of his first acts was to start the construction of the Technical School on 8th Street with funds donated by MISEREOR. In January, 1977, he wrote to the then Rector Major of the Salesians of Don Bosco in Rome, Very Rev. E. Vigano, SDB, for the Salesians to staff the proposed new technical school. He replied and considered the request. Meantime, the buildings were constructed under the supervision of Mr. Smyth of ASPSO (a Catholic humanitarian foundation based in Ireland which provides funding for different Church related projects in various parts of the world) whom Archbishop Carroll had contacted earlier.
In June, 1977, Father Williams, SDB, Counselor for English Speaking Countries of the Salesians paid a visit to Liberia. Bishop Francis took him over a great part of the Vicariate and showed him what he wanted the SDB to be engaged in. He requested that the Salesians send Priests and Brothers to manage the new technical school being constructed on 8th Street.
In the meantime, the Bishop contacted ASPSO in Ireland to send an administrator to run the school which was going up rapidly. Mr. Byrnes of ASPSO succeeded Mr. Smyth in continuing the construction of the school. Mr. I. Wenceslaus Wallace, a Liberian, was the Architect. Mr. Hayes was seconded by ASPSO to be the Principal of ABTI. He arrived in 1978.
In June, 1979, two Salesians arrived - Father Carona, SDB of Malta and Brother Paul Dacosta, SDB of USA. Father Anthony Carona became the Parish Priest of St. Joseph Parish and Brother Paul worked in the Department of Wood Work in the School which had by now been named, the Arthur Barclay Technical Institute with Mr. Hayes as the first Principal.
On August 8, 1979, the Institute was officially inaugurated. By President William R. Tolbert, Jr. in the presence of the son of Arthur Barclay, Anthony Barclay, then 95 years of age. The institution had opened its doors to the first group of students in February of 1979.
In late August, Father Anthony Carona, SDB, had to leave due to illness. Brother Bill, SDB, from the USA arrived and started working at the Institute.
In May, 1980, Mr. Hayes, the Principal of ABTI had to leave for Ireland because of ill health. The diagnosis was ominous but he came back to gradually settle things before leaving for good.
In July, 1980, the Salesians of Don Bosco in Liberia were entrusted to the British Province. The Provincial, Father Cyril Kennedy, SDB, along with former Provincial, Father Higgins, SDB, visited Liberia late that year. In September, 1980, Father Joseph Brown, SDB, arrived in Liberia. Mr. Hayes left and Father Joseph Brown, SDB, was appointed Principal of ABTI.
In 1985, there was a request from some of Catholics to raise St. Patrick High School to a college. The Archbishop appointed a committee headed by Sister Shirley Kolmer, ASC, to study the proposal. The findings of the committee zeroed in on the establishment of a Teacher Training College. This was accepted and Sister Shirley was asked to work out the details.
In 1987, the Archbishop had conversations with Sister Shirley, ASC, Father Joseph Brown, SDB and others about establishing a Polytechnic initially consisting of five colleges. He proposed the name Don Bosco in honor of St. John Bosco with the hope that the Salesians would undertake significantly its financing and provide continuously its administrators.
A committee was set up to work out the details for a Charter from the National Legislature, and. Senator Tambakai Jangaba of Cape Mount County sponsored the bill in the Legislature.
In August, 1988, by an Act of the National Legislature, the Don Bosco Polytechnic was created with five constituent colleges. The Archbishop named the colleges as they were; the ABTI was incorporated into the Polytechnic and became the Arthur Barclay Business College.
The Polytechnic was inaugurated in June 1989 after receiving its charter on August 15, 1988 from the National Legislature. Construction of the then Don Bosco Technical College was begun on fifty (50) acres of land donated by the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation. It was also discovered that although LTC had been generous in its donation to the Polytechnic, it had not paid the owners for the land so they in turn did not relinquish their deeds.
Unfortunately, the civil war put an end for the time being to the development of the Polytechnic. In early 1992, Sister Shirley then appointed to be the Dean of the Bishop John Collins Teachers College started preparations for the opening of the College on the then St. Patrick High School Campus, Her tragic death in Gardnersville during Charles Taylor’s Octopus threw things back. In 1993, the Archbishop invited Sister Barbara Brillant, FMM to inaugurate the Mother Patern College of Health Sciences and she got things moving. It was the only College of the DBP in operation up until April 6, 1996 which marked another very blood phase of the Liberian civil war.
In January, 1997, the Board of Trustees met and took the momentous decision to open the DBP. It was opened in November, 1997. Credit for the establishment of the Polytechnic must go to Father Joseph Brown, SDB, Sister Shirley Kolmer, ASC, Sister Barbara Brillant, FMM and Sister Mary Laurene Browne, OSF who gave all support to the Archbishop to get this project off the ground. Credit also goes to the members of the Board of Trustees and equally to subsequent ones for their first guidance and support to the institution
When Father Joe Brown, SDB resigned in 2001 after serving the institution for twenty years, there were no Salesians to replace him, and because the Polytechnic remains technically and legally the property of the Archdiocese, Archbishop Michael Francis thought it best to divorce it from the Don Bosco activities in Liberia which focus mainly on youths and activities meant to give them skills and also to rehabilitate them. Besides, the Polytechnic was just a stone’s throw from the high school under the same name of Don Bosco.
To this end, the Board of Trustees met on June 29, 2005 and deliberated on Archbishop Michael K. Francis’ choice of name for the institution and voted in unison to accept the name of Stella Maris for the polytechnic and Msgr. Stephen Kyne for the Technical College. Dr. Mohammed Sheriff, a member of the House of Representative of the National Transitional Legislature Assembly was then asked by the Administration to sponsor the Bill to amend the Charter by giving recognition to Stella Maris Polytechnic and to Monsignor Stephen Kyne Technical College. On November 18, 2005 the Bill was approved by the NTLA and handbills issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on November 22, 2005.
Why the Name Stella Maris Polytechnic?
Stella and Maris are two Latin words “Stella” meaning star and Maris meaning of the sea. Stella Maris is one of the many titles the Church bestows on Mary the Mother of God in the litany of praises addressed to her, to honor her.
In the rankings of the Saints she occupies a unique place by virtue of the privilege which God bestowed on her, for it was in her that the “whole fullness’ of deity would dwell ‘bodily” (Col. 2.9).
Mary is the mother of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the entire human race. Through her intercession she continues to bring graces to humankind. It is our hope and prayer that she will look upon this institution with predilection.