Daphne Ntiri, distinguished service professor in the Department of African American Studies at Wayne State, has received international recognition for her work in adult literacy and gender empowerment. 

Ntiri was one of 18 scholars to be inducted into the International Hall of Fame by the International Adult Education and Continuing Education in 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic the induction ceremony was placed on hold. A ceremony to honor the 2020 winters was held on Sept. 28 at University College Cork in Ireland. 

Ntiri said she developed a passion for literacy at a young age. While on a trip abroad when she was about 19, she said she was with a classmate who mentioned he couldn't send his family a postcard because they didn't know how to read. 

Ntiri said she was shocked because he was sophisticated and spoke fluent English. 

“It pushed me to begin to question my assumptions and I became more perceptive,” she said. “It’s like living in America and not knowing there are homeless people.”

Throughout her teaching career at WSU, Ntiri said she was able to work on her passion for adult literacy. 

“Over the last 30 plus years, I’ve spent a lot of time securing funding and that has helped me to leave a legacy of scholarship and service in the community, '' said Ntiri. 

Ntiri has been awarded several grants from the Michigan Department of Education and the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth to pursue her work. She is also the Executive Director of the Detroit Literacy Coalition. 

Roslyn Schindler, associate professor in interdisciplinary, German and Holocaust studies, said Ntiri’s work is impressive and has held a significant impact. 

“The ‘leitmotif,’ or single thread running through her impressive career, is a passionate and global commitment to teaching and research within an interdisciplinary framework and the promotion of literacy through programs that enhance students’—especially women’s—self-confidence, giving them the tools to be in the work world as well as in the academic world with pride, confidence, and theoretical and practical knowledge,” Schindler said. 

Walter Edwards, professor and former chair of WSU’s Humanities Center, said Ntiri is successful in her career for many reasons. 

“I think steadfastness and passion and desire to be helpful to people who need help,” said Edwards. “These are three things I think help her to succeed.”

Ntiri said she finds her work to be fulfilling. 

“Adult literacy is a very sad statistic,” she said. “My job has been very fulfilling and a very rewarding job because I’ve been able to touch the lives of so many people by giving them that opportunity to come in and make up for missed opportunities and help with their vision for a better life through academics.” 

Ntiri teaches WSU Another Chance, a program that prepares nontraditional leaners to successfully pass the GED exam, and enrolls up to 350 students a year. 

Ntiri said the program has served more than 4,200 students and she hopes increased funding will help her double that number. 

Edwards said Ntiri is a dedicated and passionate individual who will continue to succeed in her field. 

“She has done very well in this university and she still has more to offer and as long as the university gives her the opportunity to make a contribution, I think she will continue to do so,” Edwards said.


Marina Johnson is a correspondent for The South End. She can be reached at newsreportertse2@gmail.com.

Cover photo provided by Daphne Ntiri.