Alumni In Action

A’Lelia Josephine Kirk Osili

Class of 1940
| Best known as a Staff Psychologist at Riley Hospital, the first African American professional senior employee at the Indiana University Medical Center.

OBITUARY (courtesy of IndyStar)

A’Lelia Josephine (Kirk) Osili

A’Lelia Josephine (Kirk) Osili was born April 25, 1924, in Henderson, North Carolina to Magnolia Hawkins Kirk and Ernest Kirk, Sr. Jo, as she was affectionately known, had an older sister Clara (deceased), and two brothers, Ernest Jr. (deceased) and Michael. Jo proved to be a gifted student and leader, graduating in 1940 from Crispus Attucks High School in First Honor Roll tier at age 16. She was the Assistant Secretary of her class, a National Honor Society member, and the National President of the Junior Negro Musicians Association. In 1944, Jo received her Bachelor’s degree in Organic Chemistry from Butler University. While at Butler, she pledged and was accepted into the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority – Kappa Chapter. In the ensuing years, she went on to obtain a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology from Butler University and later a Masters degree in Child Psychology from Purdue University. In this process, Jo achieved several ‘firsts’: becoming one of the first African American women admitted to the Indiana University School of Medicine; being recruited to join the faculty of the Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts where she became the hospital’s Chief Psychologist – one of the youngest Black women in the nation to hold that position; and later, as a Staff Psychologist at Riley Hospital, the first African American professional senior employee at the Indiana University Medical Center.

In 1953, Jo married Ifeanyi Osili (whom she called “Osi”), a Nigerian and Tau Beta Pi civil engineering graduate of Purdue University. In those early years of marriage, she worked as a Staff Psychologist at the Marion County Welfare Department while Osi worked as a civil engineer with what is now the Indiana Department of Transportation. In 1957, Jo, Osi, and their first daughter, Lila, moved to Lagos, Nigeria. When Nigeria gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1960, she was appointed Executive Assistant – Protocol to Nigeria’s first President, Nnamdi Azikiwe. In this post she met Prime Ministers, Heads of State, nationalist leaders and human rights activists such as Haile Selassie, Kwame Nkrumah, Jawaharial Nehru, and Malcom X, each of whom came to confer with Azikiwe. During this time Jo and Osi also added to their family with the births of their daughter Uzoamaka (Uzo) and son, Ifeanyi Jr. (Vop). Following the outbreak of civil war in Nigeria in 1967, Jo returned to Indianapolis with the children where she worked in the Indianapolis Public Schools system, first as a Special Education Teacher and then as an IPS School Psychologist. At the conclusion of the war she returned to Nigeria with the family. While Osi rose to become the Director of Nigeria’s Federal Highways, she helped raise funding to provide scholarships and educational access to secondary school students in need.

Jo and Osi traveled the world, visiting six of the world’s seven continents and maintaining a home in Indianapolis and several in Nigeria. Following Osi’s death in 1996, Jo returned to Indianapolis and made it her permanent residence. In her retirement years Jo enjoyed many social, community, and philanthropic activities. She attained the level of National Life Master in Bridge, winning many local and national championships. Over the years she was recognized for her work and achievements, receiving in 2004 the Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest honor bestowed by the Governor of Indiana, and in 2006 the Spirit of Philanthropy Award from IUPUI. She served on the Indiana University School of Nursing Advisory Board and, in 2016, was featured in the award-winning documentary “Attucks the School that Opened a City.” Jo would likely say, however, that her biggest joy in those years was her role as Mother and Grandmother. She was a devoted friend to many and a fierce advocate for those she felt in need of one. In 1997, she played an integral part in the building of Covenant Community Church – founded by Rev. Dr. Landrum Shields where she remained a faithful member until his passing in 2011. In 2014 she joined New Life Worship Center with Pastor John Ramsey Sr. where her children were members and remained a faithful member until her passing.

Jo was preceded in death by her parents, her brother Ernest Jr., her husband, Ifeanyi Sr., and her sister Clara. She leaves to cherish her memory – her children Lila Osili Okolo, Uzoamaka Osili (Reed), and Ifeanyi “Vop” Osili (Una); her brother, Michael Harris (Linda); her grandchildren Geoffery Osili, Arinze Osili and Tasia Osili; a ‘ Bonus’ daughter – Keila Johnson; nieces, Frances McKinney and Atsedemaryam Harris; a nephew Hailu Harris; great niece Kara Murphy; great nephew Kristopher Jacobs; and several cousins, lifelong friends, church members, and many who considered her to be a role model.

 Memorial contributions may be designated to Crispus Attucks High School Foundation and Saturday, December 10, there will be a Celebration of Life Service at 12:00 p.m. with visitation from 10:00 a.m. until time of service AKA and Ivy Beyond the Wall Service at 11:30 a.m. at New Life Worship Center, 7860 Lafayette Road, with interment at Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana. Final arrangements entrusted to Stuart Mortuary,

Click here to learn more about her son, Vop Osili