In celebration of Human Rights Day on December 10 and in honour of the memorial for anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, the Trent community is remembering the historic moment when the University broke with tradition and bestowed an honorary degree in absentia upon Mr. Mandela in 1986, while he was still in prison.
Of Mr. Mandela, Trent’s president and vice-chancellor Dr. Steven Franklin said: "Nelson Mandela's words gave us the courage to believe. His courage gave us the strength to act. And his actions changed not only his country, but the world's perception of human rights and freedom.”
Mr. Mandela, who went on to lead his country as president of South Africa, was bestowed with an honorary degree from Trent University in the fall of 1986. At the ceremony that year, in a break from University tradition, Trent awarded Mr. Mandela an honorary degree in absentia as a prisoner of conscience. Mr. Mandela was serving a life-sentence in prison at the time he was awarded the Doctor of Laws honoris causa at the fall convocation ceremony on October 25, 1986. The Hon. Mr. Justice Walter Tarnopolsky, judge of the Supreme Court of Ontario, and a prominent Canadian civil libertarian, who was awarded an honorary degree at the same ceremony, accepted the honour on behalf of Mr. Mandela as well as Andrei Sakharov, a human rights leader in the former USSR, who was under tight Soviet police surveillance at the time and also unable to accept the degree in person.
Read what Trent faculty are saying about Nelson Mandela and his impact on the world:
“Mandela and Me” - a blog post by Dr. Haroon Akram-Lohdi, professor of International Development Studies, who specializes in extreme poverty and human rights. Read the blog post here: http://aharoonakramlodhi.blogspot.ca/2013/12/mandela-and-me.html
History professor Dr. Timothy Stapleton was interviewed by a Montreal journalist from Lapresse for an article on Nelson Mandela. Read the full article here: http://www.lapresse.ca/international/dossiers/nelson-mandela-1918-2013/201312/07/01-4718649-la-transformation-de-lafrique-du-sud-demeure-inachevee.php
About Human Rights Day
The UN General Assembly proclaimed December 10 as Human Rights Day in 1950, to bring to the attention ‘of the peoples of the world’ the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.