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The death of Dr Susan J. Herlin, an American scholar of history, is not only a shock but also a big blow to the people of Tamale and the Northern Region at large. She passed away in Louisville, United States of America, on May 21, 2014.

Dr Herlin was given a local chieftaincy title known as “Zo-Simli Naa”, meaning ‘Chief of Friendship’, on July 25, 1995, by the Chiefs and People of the Tamale Traditional Area to acknowledge the role she and others have played in promoting the sister city relationship between Tamale and Louisville in 1979. Dr Herlin became a symbol of this friendship which has been growing ever since.

Over the years, she creditably discharged her role as Zo-Simli Naa for which she acknowledged the support of the late King of Dagbon, Ya-Naa Yakubu Andani, the late Choggu-Naa, the late Gukpe-Naa Abdulai and the late Dakpema Richard Alhassan.

These prominent traditional rulers accepted her into their fold even though she was a foreigner, and also in spite of the fact that her position was not institutionalised in Dagbon custom.

Dr Herlin at the time of her installation had no permanent residence in Tamale and consequently in 2001, she took up the challenge and championed the construction of a palace at Lamashegu, a suburb of Tamale. The building, an improved version of the traditional architectural round houses, serves not only as her home in Tamale, but also as the offices of Sister Cities of Tamale, the organisation that coordinates the relationship between Tamale and Louisville.

Her room was decorated with various African cultural relics, including paintings and art works, and the idea of being an embodiment of friendship is a tag that Dr Herlin felt very comfortable wearing as she spent the last 19 years promoting friendship between Tamale and Louisville.

Beyond the friendship and aside the pride and royalty that came along with it, what brought greater joy to the late chief, obviously, was the opportunity she had to touch the lives of the people of Tamale and its environs.

She worked hand-in-hand with stakeholders of the Sister-Cities of Tamale and Louisville to implement a number of development initiatives which have become her legacy in the Tamale community.

Notable among these initiatives is a scholarship programme which she instituted in 1999 to support brilliant but needy children in Tamale. Since then more than 300 students, half of whom are girls, have benefited from this scheme. Many of them enjoyed the scholarship from primary to the tertiary level, and are now graduates with gainful employment.

The scheme was very dear to the late chief’s heart, and she did not hesitate to show her inner satisfaction each time she met the young people that the scheme helped to build a good future for themselves.

Information gathered by the Ghana News Agency has indicated that an amount of $ 40,000 was injected into the scheme every year since the inception of the scholarship programme and plans were far advanced towards expanding the scheme to cover more needy girls.

Aside the scholarship programme, the relationship between Tamale and Loiusville has yielded dividends in many other areas. Each year, through the sister city link, various amounts of money from a grant funded by Trull Foundation of Texas, United States, is disbursed to civil society groups in Tamale to implement various development interventions, including girl-child empowerment.

Through the same sister city link, the University for Development Studies (UDS) has established a fruitful partnership with the University of Louisville in the area of medical and allied fields and a similar exchange programme was also forged between the Tamale Islamic Senior High School and the Kentucky County Day School in the United States.

Dr Susan J. Herlin may be gone, but the footprints she has left in the sands of the savannah are indelible. MAY HER SOUL REST IN PERFECT PEACE!

A GNA feature by Alhaji Amadu Kamil Sanah