Tutu has been a voice for justice, peace, truth and reconciliation throughout his ministry. He retired from public life in 2010 but accepted Gonzaga's invitation after being inspired by the global activism of Gonzaga's students, faculty and alumni, he said.
“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 125thyear celebrations and 2012 Commencement exercises,” Tutu wrote.
Tutu 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. He is scheduled to speak during graduation at 10 a.m., May 13 in the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.
Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh will present 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.
McCulloh said he is delighted to welcome Archbishop Tutu to Spokane as part of Gonzaga's125thAnniversary celebration. McCulloh, in his correspondence with the archbishop, recalled his time as a Gonzaga undergraduate as 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,” 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.”
McCulloh described 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 thatArchbishop Tutu has chosen to be with us and our graduates for Commencement.He is certainlyamong the most prominent moral icons of our time.”
Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 15 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.
Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. Currently she serves as the executive director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She is also a Scholarly Assistant Professor at Washington State University.