Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
About us Latest news News News articles

Desmond Tutu awarded honorary doctorate

24 September 2012

‘The capacity to forgive helps people surpass themselves’. That is the key message of the speech given by Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Monday 24 September 2012, when accepting an honorary doctorate from the University of Groningen. The archbishop was awarded the honorary doctorate at the suggestion of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies for his outstanding achievements as chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and his significant social contributions in the field of healthcare.

Tutu, a jovial man, said it was a huge honour to be awarded the highest university distinction. He also paid tribute to all the other members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: ‘I am here in their name. I was simply the captain of a magnificent team.’ With a personal speech about the function of forgiveness, including reminiscences from the turbulent history of South Africa, the Archbishop spoke to a packed, silent Martinikerk. Those who forgive surpass themselves, according to Tutu, who used the words ‘Fly, eagle, fly!’ to call on mankind to exercise forgiveness and transform itself from a chicken into an eagle.

Laudatio

Honorary supervisor Geurt-Henk van Kooten, Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, spoke in his laudatio of the major contribution made by Tutu to the peaceful transition to a free South Africa, without the apartheid regime. In the same context, he also referred to the honorary doctorate awarded by the University of Groningen in 1989 to the South African theologian and anti-apartheid activist Frank Chikane. Van Kooten called the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Tutu’s contribution to it a shining example for other countries wrestling with internal conflict and presented Tutu’s call for social harmony, and the way it permeates his ideas and work, as a worthy definition and elaboration of the concept of sustainable society, one of the University's spearheads.

Rector Magnificus Prof. Elmer Sterken referred in his speech to the special timing of the presentation – previously the University of Groningen has only awarded honorary doctorates when celebrating a lustrum. Sterken also praised Desmond Tutu’s impressive track record.

At the end of the ceremony, as a surprise, students, alumni and staff of the University sang the South African national anthem, including Nkose sikelel’ iAfrika, which was the ANC anthem during apartheid.

See also:

Last modified:13 March 2020 01.52 a.m.
printView this page in: Nederlands

More news

  • 15 June 2021

    From ‘closed’ science to Open Science

    Vera Heininga is the Open Science coordinator and future programme leader of the upcoming Open Science programme of the University of Groningen. Together with her colleagues, she created the Open Science Community Groningen (OSCG). She explains...

  • 27 May 2021

    Video lecture Mladen Popović: Was the Bible copied wrongly?

    The Bible, albeit very old, is still one of the most influential books in the world. The texts have been rewritten, copied out and translated a myriad of times over the past 2000 years. Are today's texts still in line with the originals? Bible...

  • 17 May 2021

    ‘Encouraging young people, that’s my most important job’

    Four and a half years ago, he received the Nobel Prize. During the award ceremony in Stockholm, Ben Feringa made a resolution: I will put science on the map. His mission is being given a new boost with the establishment of the Ben Feringa Fund,...