@GonzagaNews Service RSS

Gonzaga to Honor Nobel Laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu at Undergraduate Commencement

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu will speak at the Senior Commencement May 13 in the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. Photo courtesy Archbishop Tutu.

Graduation Weekend Marks Beginning of Gonzaga’s 125th Anniversary Celebration

SPOKANE, Wash. – Gonzaga University seniors will have the rare honor of hearing from Nobel Laureate Desmond M. Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa, as their keynote speaker at Senior Commencement May 13. Archbishop Tutu, an inspirational voice for justice, peace, truth and reconciliation throughout his ministry, retired from public life in 2010 but enthusiastically accepted Gonzaga’s invitation after being inspired by the global activism of Gonzaga’s students, faculty and alumni.

The Most Rev. Desmond Tutu says he is inspired by the global activism of Gonzaga’s students, faculty and alumni. Photo courtesy of Archbishop Tutu.

“I am always inspired and awed by the idealism and altruism of young people. I was swept off my feet at the projects they described in the [Gonzaga students magazine] One World. So I am honoured to accept your kind invitation  .  .  .  to share in your 125th year celebrations and 2012 Commencement exercises,” the Most Rev. Tutu wrote.  He retired as archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa in 1996. In 2010, the Archbishop Emeritus announced he would limit his public appearances to spend more time with family.

Ceremony Available Live Via Streaming Video

Archbishop Tutu is to speak at approximately 10:10 a.m. on May 13 in the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. The ceremony will be available, in its entirety, via live streaming video at the following link for home computers, tablets or smart phones. See system requirements here. The live video will begin with the procession into the arena at 9:30 a.m., ending at approximately 1 p.m.

Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh will present Archbishop Tutu with Gonzaga’s honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the ceremony.  Admission is by invitation-only to ensure adequate space for Gonzaga’s graduating seniors and their families.

President McCulloh said he is delighted to welcome Archbishop Tutu to Spokane as part of Gonzaga’s 125th Anniversary celebration. McCulloh, in his correspondence with the Archbishop, recalled his time as a Gonzaga undergraduate as the Most Rev. Tutu and Nelson Mandela waged a South African anti-apartheid battle on the world stage.

“As an undergraduate during the mid-1980s, I was actively involved with our own campus efforts against apartheid in South Africa,” Dr. McCulloh wrote. “Many of us watched your tireless efforts from half a world away and were overjoyed when you received the Nobel Prize for Peace. Years later, my awareness of that time led me to visit Cape Town as part of our recent efforts to connect our students with opportunities for study abroad in Africa.”

‘A Living Exemplar’ of Gonzaga’s Ideals

President McCulloh described Archbishop Tutu as “a living exemplar of Gonzaga’s historic commitment to the ideals of equality and a free society as a Catholic, Jesuit and humanistic University,” McCulloh said. “We are honored and humbled that Archbishop Tutu has chosen to be with us and our graduates for Commencement.  He is certainly among the most prominent moral icons of our time.”

The Most Rev. Tutu played a critical role in the fight against South African apartheid and has not stopped fighting for equality, democracy, freedom and human rights worldwide ever since. His faith and commitment to South African peace earned Archbishop Tutu the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his nonviolent efforts to sustain human rights at the peak of unrest in South Africa’s racially segregated townships.

Often referred to as the moral conscience of South Africa, the Most Rev. Tutu was appointed Bishop of Johannesburg in 1985. In 1986, he became the first black cleric to lead the Anglican Church in South Africa when named Archbishop of Cape Town. In that role, he helped bridge a chasm between white and black Anglicans. He was made Archbishop Emeritus in 1996.

South Africans overwhelmingly elected Nelson Mandela president in 1994, the first time in the nation’s history that all races voted in a democratic election. In 1995, President Mandela named Archbishop Tutu to chair South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which Mandela created to investigate human rights violations under apartheid. The Most Rev. Tutu’s findings on the commission marked a key milestone in South Africa’s healing process, and served as an international reminder of the commitment to freedom and justice.

After decades of struggle against injustice, Archbishop Tutu announced in 2010 his aim to reduce public appearances. At a dinner honoring Archbishop Tutu upon his retirement, Mandela noted: “His joy in our diversity and his spirit of forgiveness are as much part of his immeasurable contribution to our nation as his passion for justice and his solidarity with the poor.”

Additional Biographical Information on Archbishop Emeritus Desmond M. Tutu

Born in 1931 in Klerksdorp, South Africa, Archbishop Tutu was given the middle name “Mpilo,” Sotho for “life,” because he was a sickly baby, not expected to survive. “That,” he said, “was my first commitment to faith.” After graduating from high school, the Most Rev. Tutu trained first as a teacher – his father’s occupation – and in 1954 graduated from the University of South Africa. After three years as a high school teacher, he began to study theology and was ordained an Anglican priest in 1960. After earning Bachelor of Divinity Honors and Master of Theology degrees from King’s College, University of London, he taught theology from 1967-1972 in South Africa before returning to England for three years as associate director of the Theological Education Fund of the World Council of Churches in London.

In 1975, he was appointed dean of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg, the first black person to hold that position. From 1976 to 1978, he was Bishop of Lesotho. By 1978 – in the wake of 1976 Soweto uprising – South Africa was in turmoil and Archbishop Tutu was persuaded to become General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches – the first black person to hold the post. The Most Rev. Tutu became an international figure in this position.

Justice, reconciliation and an end to apartheid were SACC’s priorities, and Archbishop Tutu vigorously pursued those goals. Under his leadership, SACC became an instrumental institution committed to South Africa’s spiritual and political well-being. An iconic figure in South Africa’s crusade for justice and racial conciliation, Most Rev. Tutu became embroiled in controversy and spoke out at every occasion against the injustices of apartheid. He was denied a passport to travel abroad for several years.

Archbishop Tutu served for years as his country’s voice of conscience during its long struggle against apartheid. When that battle was finally won, he turned to minister to his nation’s wounds. While his vigorous advocacy of social justice once rendered him a controversial figure, the Most Rev. Tutu is now widely considered one of the world’s most prominent and effective transformational leaders. His influence as a beacon of moral, ethical, spiritual and political hope reaches far beyond South Africa. He is chairman of The Elders, a nonpartisan group of global leaders who challenge injustice, stimulate dialogue and debate, and help create positive change in society.

The Most Rev. Tutu holds honorary doctorates from more than 130 leading universities in the United States and Europe, and has received many awards and prizes in addition to the Nobel Prize for Peace. Most notably, those awards include: the Order for Meritorious Service Award (Gold) presented by President Mandela; the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor; the Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-Violent Peace Prize; the Gandhi Peace Prize; the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Award for Outstanding Service to the Anglican Communion; the Prix d’Athene (Onassis Foundation); the Family of Man Gold Medal Award; the Mexican Order of the Aztec Medal; and the Sydney Peace Prize.

Archbishop Tutu’s writings include “No Future Without Forgiveness” and “God Has a Dream.”  Together with his daughter, the Rev. Mpho A. Tutu, he co-authored the book “Made for Goodness.” Resolute that human beings are made for goodness in the image of God, despite routine suffering, Most Rev. Tutu and his daughter share insights and anecdotes from their ministries to help demonstrate how people can realize this essential goodness.

In recent years, Most Rev. Tutu has turned his attention to the campaign against HIV/AIDS, and has made appearances worldwide to help raise awareness of the disease and its tragic consequences.

Mandela, Archbishop Tutu’s longtime friend and colleague in the struggle for social justice in South Africa and beyond, provides an apt summary of Most Rev. Desmond Tutu’s legacy: “Sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid and seldom without humor,” Mandela said.

Gonzaga will soon announce the School of Law and Graduate commencement honorees – along with all other commencement events during Mother’s Day weekend.

Visit this site for more information about Gonzaga’s Commencement exercises or contact Susie Prusch, university events manager, at (509) 313-5571 or via e-mail. Media should contact Mary Joan Hahn, director of community and public relations, at (509) 313-6095 or via e-mail or Peter Tormey, associate director of public relations and news service manager, at (509) 313-6132 or via e-mail.

  1. Willa Harrelson
    Posted April 17, 2012 at 10:17 am

    How wonderful that you are having The Most Rev. Desmond Tutu
    at your graduation ceremony. What a wonderful opportunity for
    Spokane and all the graduates.
    Thank you so much.