From Nigeria to Glenwood: the tale of Wole Bankole

Humanitarian efforts are seen worldwide through Bankole’s experiences with quarry.

 By: Alan Sylvestre

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Photo By: Alan Sylvestre

Rows of stoves are displayed out front as the smell of burning wood radiates throughout the air. Boxes of 2 ft. diameters are stacked 10 ft. high and over 20 ft. long on galvanized steel shelves. A man wearing denim jeans, a white work shirt, and a white baseball cap opens the north warehouse doors. As he walks to the front of the high-ceiling warehouse, he mentally prepares himself for the physically demanding tasks that lie ahead. He puts out the stove, transforms a flat box into a shipping box, and places inside it the stove, preparing it to be shipped across the world.

Wole Bankole has been the warehouse coordinator with Stove Tec, located at 3400 Franklin Blvd. Bankole has been an employee with Stove Tec for one year, coming from a large background in geology and foreign affairs.

Stove Tec provides approximately 35,000 stoves to countries internationally. and Bankole’s personal goal  is to reduce the approximate 1.6 million deaths that occur each year due to inhaling smoke from open flames. Bankole has seen the problems in these foreign countries because of his youthful experiences.

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He was born and raised in Nigeria before traveling to Eugene on a student visa to study geology at the University of Oregon. Upon graduation, he decided to pursue his geomagnetic interests by obtaining a master’s degree in geo-studies from the University of Oregon.

After college, his career plans were put on hold temporarily because of a conflict that arose in Nigeria involving his family and the local government. Some of their land was taken, so Bankole decided to return to his homeland and support his family in their time of need. That’s how he found his first position in the field of geology.

“My career path was not so straight forward,” Bankole says. “I’m from Nigeria, and after college, I started working in England for a quarry.” He had family in this area, so after the conflict in Nigeria, he traveled to England to visit his family and eventually landed a position with a rock quarry.

“The position at the quarry allowed me to incorporate my background in science and be near my family,”  Bankole says, But, according to other close family members, there was another primary reason why he decided to stay in England, rather than try and get a job in the U.S.

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Karen Bankole is the wife of Wole Bankole and serves as the manager of the A&AA Library at the University of Oregon.  “It was a very difficult time to find a job,” Karen Bankole says.  “He didn’t have citizenship yet [in the U.S.], so he went to England where it was easier to find a job.”

Apart from first hand accounts of the political problems in Nigeria, Bankole also understands the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and the importance that physical activity can have on a person’s life.

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He steps up to the starting line on Hayward Field and waits for the coveted “bang” from the starting gun. As he winds the trails of Alton Baker Park, the smell of bark dust fills his lungs, making it increasingly difficult to breathe. As he continues down the trails, the bark dust levels rise and his face becomes sticky from the dust particles. After several hours of painstaking perseverance, he crosses the line with lungs lined with bark, but a heart full of completion. Bankole has just finished his first Eugene Marathon.

Footbridge

Photo By: Alan Sylvestre
The Autzen Footbridge is on the main route of the Eugene Marathon.

In his free time, Bankole enjoys the sport of Track & Field and volunteers with the Oregon Track Club. He also volunteers with the Prefontaine Classic and Eugene YMCA.

“The fun part was that we were all running [and] not thinking of the consequences towards our body,” Bankole says.

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After serving as the coordinator of the quarry, Bankole decided that it was time to move on, so he resigned from his position and opened his own consulting firm in Nigeria named Cascade Engineering Nigeria Ltd. Through his consulting firm he provided geological, mining, and civil engineering services to rock quarries in the surrounding areas.

Due to his long tenure as a student in Eugene, Bankole felt that he might someday return because he enjoys the scenery and the strong geological background in this area. The rich geo-culture and environmental surroundings were the primary factors that led him to studying at the University of Oregon.

“After working in England and Nigeria, I rediscovered my love for Eugene and freedom,” he says. “My stay in the U.S. was difficult after 9/11, but now it’s good.” Since returning to the U.S. Bankole describes how the combination of the environment and freedom have allowed him to maintain a decent lifestyle.

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Photo By: Alan Sylvestre
This single door stove is one of the featured models at Stove Tec.

Stove Tec partners with Aprovecho Research Center to disseminate cook stoves to meet the basic needs of impoverished people and communities. With this partnership, Stove Tec provides approximately 35,000 stoves to countries internationally. Because of Bankole’s first hand account of this problem in Nigeria, he brings passion to the table every day at work.

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Up until recently, Bankole served as a tutor with the TRiO program at Lane Community College. Bankole feels that sharing knowledge with those around you is a valuable trait. In the years to come, Bankole hopes to remain with Stove Tec and enjoy the prosperous geological and track and field environments that are embraced within the Willamette Valley.

“I enjoy all the opportunities for track and field and the rich geology,” Bankole says. “I would like to stay here for some time.”

Alan Sylvestre

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About alansylvestre

I'm a professional videographer and photographer My interests in storytelling are related to the way people interact with governing bodies, and vice versa. I find joy in telling stories around human interest. My specialties are in videography and photography.
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