Anthonia Adesiyan Soboyejo was born in Lagos, Nigeria, on June 13th, 1940. She was the second child of Emmanuel Adesanya Foster-Aileru and Cecilia Sholakunmi Foster- Aileru (Nee Olajide). In her early years, she was friends with peers such as Ololade Oki and Julie Coker. She also attended St. Mary’s Convent Primary School in Lagos.
Subsequently, Anthonia completed her secondary school education at St. Theresa’s College in Ibadan, before moving to Abeokuta to receive additional preparation in physics and chemistry from the Oyewole twins (Dotun and Femi Oyewole). She was then admitted to the Nigerian College of Arts and Sciences (formerly a College of London University and now Ahmadu Bello University) in Zaria, where she met her future husband, Alfred Babatunde Olaiya Soboyejo, who was then an undergraduate student in civil engineering at the same college.
In 1963, she travelled to Palo Alto, California, to marry Alfred Babatunde Olaiya Soboyejo, who was then a doctoral student in civil engineering and engineering mechanics at Stanford University. Anthonia’s father, Emmanuel Adesanya Foster-Aileru, also visited the young family in Palo Alto, CA, before the family returned to Nigeria in 1965.
Upon her return to Nigeria, Anthonia enrolled as an undergraduate student in the Department of Botany and Zoology at the University of Lagos, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in 1968. She then started a career as a teacher at the Our Lady of Apostles Girls Secondary School in Yaba, Lagos, where she taught Biology and Chemistry to students that were shaped by her special combination of rigor and compassion.
Anthonia Soboyejo also served as a mother to her husband’s brother (Francis Olatunji-Onipede) and sister (Subulola Soyode-Onatolu), whom she placed in catholic schools that prepared them for life. She also mentored and taught her sister, Cynthia Adekuoye (Nee Foster-Aileru) and Dr. Margaret Ogejofo, amongst others that she taught at the Our Lady of Apostles Girls Secondary School in Yaba, Lagos.
During the 1970’s, Anthonia completed the Postgraduate Certificate in Education at the University of Lagos. After 10 years of teaching (1968-1978) at the Our Lady of Apostles Secondary School, Anthonia was the Vice Principal (1978-1979) of the Western College of Commerce, Yaba, Lagos, before her appointment as the Vice Principal of St. Timothy’s College in Iwaya, Lagos, between 1979 and 1980.
Subsequently, she was appointed as a Director of the Schools Management Committee (SMC) of the Schools Management Board of Lagos State. She was then promoted to the position of Principal of Odofin Secondary School in Mile 2, where she served as Principal between 1983 and 1991, when she retired from active service of the Lagos State Government. Her retirement event at St. Dominics Church was very well attended by many of the students that were impacted by her teaching and her compassion for others.
In 1992, Anthonia moved to the United States where she worked briefly as a teacher at a Day Care Center in Columbus, Ohio before establishing International Market, a shop in the Short North District of Columbus. Anthonia also taught classes on African Cooking at The Ohio State University (OSU), where she was later employed as a scientist in the Biology Department.
During her time at OSU, Anthonia worked on a major cassava research project that was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the lab of Prof. Richard Sayre. Anthonia’s prior experience in tropical biology provided her with a strong background to engage in this work. The work was also particularly meaningful to her, due to the importance of cassava as a major food crop in Nigeria.
After 18 years of separation, Anthonia reconciled with Alfred Babatunde Olaiya Soboyejo in 1998. They remarried in January of 2000. In subsequent years, Anthonia spent much of her time supporting her husband in his role as a Professor of Engineering at The Ohio State University. She was also highly supportive of Alfred’s PhD students such as Kaustubh Bhalerao, Anand Plapally, Peter Mulamba and Yang Geng.
Anthonia passed away peacefully in her sleep on October 14, 2022. She was a dedicated mother first and foremost. She treasured her children and embraced every moment with them. She is the loving and devoted mother of Winston Oluwole Soboyejo, Alfred Babatunde Oluwatosin Soboyejo, Maureen Mobolaji Enitan Odunsi and Adebanke Magarita Ebigbola. She was also a devoted grandmother and great grandmother - she was the “rock” of the Soboyejo-Onipede-Akinwunmi-Foster-Aileru family and respected by all that had the opportunity to know her.