Desmond Tutu to Speak at Penn Commencement

PHILADELPHIA -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel laureate and one of the world's foremost Christian leaders to oppose apartheid in South Africa, will deliver the address at the 247th Commencement ceremony of the University of Pennsylvania May 19.

Commencement will begin with the procession of degree candidates at 9:30 a.m. at Franklin Field, 33rd and South streets. Approximately 6,000 degrees will be conferred.

Tutu graduated from college with a teaching diploma and taught high school before entering the Anglican ministry. He later earned bachelor of divinity and master of theology degrees in England before returning to South Africa.

Tutu was named secretary general of the South African Council of Churches after the historic 1976 uprising against apartheid in Soweto. His leadership at the SACC created a public stage for his active resistance to racial injustice in South Africa, earning him the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize.

Tutu devoted the following years to bridging the chasm between the people of South Africa. In 1986, he became the first black Anglican archbishop of Cape Town. More recently, he headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, an attempt to heal the wounds of the former system of government-enforced racial segregation. He retired as archbishop of Cape Town and was named archbishop emeritus in 1996.

At Penn’s Commencement, Tutu will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

Other honorary-degree recipients are:

  • Stephen Breyer, an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court admired for his distinguished dedication to constitutional law, brilliance about governmental regulation in a free-market society and passion for teaching.
  • Herbert J. Gans, a professor of sociology at Columbia University and the first graduate of Penn's Graduate School of Fine Arts doctoral program in city planning whose research and commentary on urban sociology and planning have served as a national standard for more than 50 years.
  • Sadako Ogata, a former United Nations high commissioner for refugees, a scholar-in-residence with The Ford Foundation and the Japanese prime minister’s special representative for Afghanistan assistance.
  • Mamphela Ramphele, the first African woman to serve as a World Bank managing director and an anthropologist, physician and university administrator who played a key role in South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement.
  • Philip Roth, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of such works as "Portnoy’s Complaint," "Operation Shylock," "Sabbath’s Theater," "American Pastoral," "I Married a Communist," "The Human Stain" and "The Dying Animal."

Additional Penn Commencement information is available by calling 215-573-4723 or by visiting

High resolution images of the honorary degree recipients are available at: