PSYCHO 1949 - 2016
A man never in a hurry
A special feature celebrating the life of Alexander Kojo Anderson
by Stephen jaitoh koffa, jr.
Class of '79
alexander kojo anderson - psycho
“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” Shannon L. Alder might as well have been writing about Psycho. Psycho's legacy was built primarily on teaching, but he also touched people through poetry and political activism. His passion was always to do what he could to transform lives. In the process, he established lifelong relationships with his students, players and colleagues.
Psycho...with Andrea Kiahon Knowlden, Fatu Gbedema and Sylvia Kiahon
Life teaches us lessons that persist. One of them is that relationships in many instances can be transient. People enter one's life on schedule, and depart when they must. If we are lucky, people will remember something we might have done for them. Perhaps it was an act of kindness or words of encouragement. Simple, but impactful. For many of his students and players, Psycho is easy to remember. He had an impressive a resume as anyone: teacher, scholar, poet, coach, athletic director, dean of discipline, basketball league official, public administrator, founding member of a political party. As noteworthy as his accomplishments were, we will shorten his due if this is all we remember. Psycho's life was stacked with moments of simple, but impactful gestures.
A child needs comforting during her father's funeral, Psycho is there, bringing her entire basketball team in tow. A student is struggling with schoolwork, Psycho takes the time to tutor. Another needs advice on dealing with relationships, he gives wise counsel. One kind gesture followed by another, and then another, and so forth. Add them up and you will uncover the legacy of the man. He spent a lifetime doing for others.
Juliana Dixon, a 1986 graduate of STC who began playing for Psycho when she was in the 6th grade at St. Teresa's Convent, visited Liberia in 2010 after being away for 23 years. She did not rest until she found Psycho to tell him how much he meant to her life.
Psycho...with Juliana Dixon in 2010
Psycho...with Alston Wolo
"What I admired most about Psycho is that he sacrificially gave of his time without asking for anything in return. He was not only a coach of the Friskies basketball team, he was also a father figure, a big brother and most importantly a friend to all of us. I remember whenever we were on St. Patrick’s campus we would all just go and sit in Psycho’s office and talk and laugh before starting practice."
As much as Psycho was warm and charming, he took his role as a teacher very seriously. He lived by certain principles and taught his players values that transferred in their adult lives. It showed in the way he treated his players.
"Like yesterday, I remember Psycho used a moment of my youthful indiscretion to teach me a lesson in commitment and teamwork," Juliana says. "Psycho recruited me when I was in the 6th grade, and by the 9th or 10th grade I was his starting point guard. I had won a few player-of-the-week awards, and decided I was good enough to blow off a few practices. I showed up for a big game without attending practice, and Psycho benched me the entire game. At that point, teaching me a lesson in commitment, responsibility and teamwork was more important to Psycho than winning that game. I have never forgotten that lesson."
Many of Psycho's players/students remember him this way. He gave you everything he had, and expected nothing in return. If life was fair in its allocation of equity, Psycho would have been abundantly wealthy. But his life will never be measured by trappings of material wealth. Rather, you will find his treasure "etched into the minds of others and the stories they share." When you hear his former students and players talk about him, you might come away thinking that this was an amazing man, perhaps even perfect. Psycho was exactly that: an amazing man, but far from perfect. To think of him as perfect would be to miss the point of their stories. In Psycho, they were not looking for the perfect man. What they found was the perfect role model. You hear words like father figure, role model, surrogate dad, friend, counsel.
Psycho...with some of his former players and colleagues. They include Boikai and Babe Kiahon, Michael Wotorson, Kollie Tamba and others.
Yes, Psycho was not perfect. He was as flawed as the next man, facing life's unforgiving rigors with dogged persistence. But what distinguished Psycho from most is he sought to leave everyone he touched a little better than he met them. He was acutely aware of the adage that people " may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel."
Shupan Abraham, who played for Psycho's STC Friskies team of 1984 remembers how she felt about his practices. "Psycho was always fun and loving when in a social setting. But during basketball practice and on the court, he was a totally different person, very stern and serious in a good way. He made practice so much fun. I always looked forward to the next one. He took his job as a coach very serious and it showed in the results that he/we got."
Psycho with Faustina Bonner in 2016.
Psycho...with Doris Bishop Nelson, Andrea Kiahon Knowlden, Chyl Krangar Wreh, Dora Nelson, Alexander Kojo Anderson, Sylvia Kiahon Blase.
These are a few examples. You hear story after story about the impact Psycho had on the lives of his players. Stories of reverence, admiration, respect, love. Most of all, you hear stories of lessons learned and used today.
One of Psycho's players on Friskies and Hornets, Faustina Bonner, visited Liberia twice in February and December of 2016. On both occasions, she spent a lot of time with Psycho.
"We reminisced about his coaching days and I reminded him how much he meant to us as a mentor and father figure. He said he loved seeing his former students and hearing about how well they are doing. It made him feel really proud. I always wondered how we could repay this great man who did so much for us. When I asked him, all he wanted was his book of poetry published. Sadly, he didn't get to see that dream come true. He passed away 5 days after I saw him. I was devastated. It still leaves me reeling whenever I think of his sudden passing."
Tragically, Psycho died of a heart attack on December 28, 2016. He lived a life of enviable fulfillment. The impact he had on his students and players, the contributions he made to the development and promotion of basketball in Liberia, the initiatives he took as a political activist, poetry he wrote reflecting hope, love, existential conflicts - all of this will never be forgotten. There is a generation of children who have no idea the impact Psycho had on the lives of their parents. They will find out when their parents tell the story of this imperfect, but amazing man.