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April 1, 2009

MSU welcomes Desmond Tutu to campus for spring commencement

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a South African activist who served as an opponent of apartheid during the 1980s and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, will be the featured speaker during Michigan State University’s spring undergraduate convocation.


The ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. May 8 at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Tickets will not be required for the event, which is free and open to the public.


“Welcoming Desmond Tutu to Michigan State University is yet another step forward in the ongoing and positive relationship between our campus community and Africa,” MSU President Lou Ann K. Simon said. “MSU values this strong relationship, which includes study abroad programs, our African Studies Center and myriad faculty members and students engaged in research and outreach in fields ranging from health care to agriculture to environmental studies in more than half of Africa’s nations.”


After becoming the first black General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches in 1979, Tutu, an Anglican priest, spoke out strongly against apartheid in South Africa and began pushing for nonviolent change and sanctions against the country. Tutu is also respected for his activist work in fighting AIDS, poverty and homophobia throughout Africa and the world.


MSU has a long history with South Africa and the continent as a whole:


  • In 1978, the MSU Board of Trustees was the first to divest its portfolio on corporations operating in South Africa.
  • In summer 2008, MSU celebrated the 90th birthday of former South African President Nelson Mandela with a specially designed exhibit of letters written by children from all over the world to human rights leaders Mandela and the late Rosa Parks.
  • Since 1986, University Distinguished Professor Terrie Taylor of MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine has been working in Malawi to better understand malaria and its effects on children. In 2008, a magnetic resonance imaging scanner was donated and now is housed in the country.

During the commencement, Tutu will be bestowed with an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. Past honorary degree recipients include Mandela, Coretta Scott King and Maya Angelou. For more information on MSU commencement, go to




Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.