New York University President John Sexton today bestowed an honorary doctorate on renowned physician, academic, and anti-apartheid activist Mamphela Aletta Ramphele at NYU’s 175th Commencement Exercises in Washington Square Park. Some 19,000 graduates, faculty, staff, and guests attended the morning ceremony.
The following citation was read in conferring the Doctor of Humane Letters degree, honoris causa, on Mamphela Aletta Ramphele:
Mamphela Aletta Ramphele-rising from poverty and the brutal effects of South Africa’s crushing system of apartheid, you defied ancient prejudices and overwhelming odds to become a medical doctor, anthropologist, author, educator, and preeminent advocate for the disenfranchised around the globe. Courageous activist and a founder of the Black Consciousness movement, you were banned in 1977 to a remote and impoverished corner of your country for seven years, where you nonetheless built a community health center and completed a bachelor’s of commerce degree in administration. Your courageous spirit and unconquerable will overcame personal loss and sacrifice to lead you to a career of stunning achievement: vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town, the first black woman so designated at a South African university; a managing director of the World Bank; and now chair of Circle Capital Ventures, a Cape Town based black empowerment company investing in people. At the World Bank you wielded a commanding portfolio to advance human development in the areas of education, health, and social protection; as co-chair of the Global Commission for International Migration you rejected the claim that international migration is unnecessary and unwanted, or that it can be blocked by the creation of increasingly restrictive barriers.
Mamphela Aletta Ramphele-you are an exemplar of extraordinary citizenship-for your country, for the academy, for the world at large-and a magnificent inspiration to all who seek to advance the human condition. By virtue of the authority vested in me by New York University, I am pleased to confer upon you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.