Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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Honoring Naomi Tutu

Advocate for equality to receive Otis Social Justice Award

Growing up in apartheid South Africa, Nontombi Naomi Tutu saw injustice firsthand, but she also learned how dedicated activists can change the world for the better. And she has dedicated herself to doing so.

On September 16, Wheaton College will present the advocate for tolerance, equality, and human rights with the Otis Social Justice Award. The 7 p.m. presentation will take place in Hindle Auditorium in the Science Center, and Tutu will deliver a lecture titled “Striving for Justice: Searching for Common Ground.”

Her father, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the apartheid regime. She has had a wide range of experiences, serving as a development coordinator in West Africa, founding a consulting firm, leading reconciliation efforts for feuding groups, and teaching at several American universities, including at the University of Hartford, University of Connecticut, and Brevard College in North Carolina. She served as program coordinator for the historic Race Relations Institute at Fisk University.

Tutu’s selection for the award was first proposed by Marguerite Copeland ’14, who is majoring in African, African American Diaspora Studies.

Copeland’s family hosted an event for Girl Up, a campaign of the United Nations Foundation that supports American girls who raise awareness and funds for the United Nations. At the event, Tutu spoke about the importance of young women becoming leaders in their community.

Copeland said she was inspired by Tutu’s speech and by the stories of the young women who are involved in Girl Up. Afterward, Copeland worked with Dean of Students Lee Williams and Professor of Women’s Studies Kim Miller, who has researched women activists in South Africa, to have Tutu speak at Wheaton.

The Otis Social Justice lecture series was established in 1959 through the generosity of Henry Witte Otis, whose children included two Wheaton graduates. Eleanor Roosevelt was among the earliest Otis lecturers (1962). The first Otis Social Justice Award was presented in 1990 to former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. Today, Otis Fund supports a colloquium in social justice—a forum through which the Wheaton community may address key contemporary social issues.

This year’s lecture will celebrate Wheaton’s new minor, Peace and Social Justice Studies. The minor is an interdisciplinary study of injustice, activism, and community organizing.

Professor Miller, who will be teaching some of the courses in the minor, said that Tutu’s selection for the Otis award and lecture highlights the fact that Wheaton is a community that cares about issues of social justice and equality.

By Brian Jencunas '14

 For more information, please visit www.apbspeakers.com.