Thursday, Day 6
Upon his graduation from Haramaya University (then Alemaya College) in 1973, Gebisa Ejeta received his diploma from the Ethiopian emperor himself, Haile Selassie.
It was Selassie whose edict founded the college in 1958 as a way of growing the agricultural minds that would provide leadership for his country and help feed his people.
Gebisa had distinguished himself on campus with his mind, graduating first in his class, but also with his height. At 6 feet 7 inches, Gebisa was easily the tallest student in his graduating class of 92 students, a fact that was not lost on the diminutive emperor.
The 5-foot-tall Selassie looked up at the towering graduate and said, "May your service to your country measure up to your height."
Thirty-six years later, while visiting the university and not far from the spot where he received his diploma, Gebisa has taken the emperor’s lead.
When Amanuel Belaineh, the 8-year-old son of the university’s vice president, asks Gebisa for his autograph, his first as a World Food Prize laureate, the giant man stoops down to the small boy and writes words that echo Selassie’s of so many years ago.
"To Amanuel Belaineh
"May you grow to be as tall as I and become a man of distinction in any field of endeavor that you would choose!
"Gebisa Ejeta, July 2009"