Peace was the emphasis Saturday during the Honors Convocation, where 1,520 graduates were celebrated, along with anti-aparteid leader Albert “Albie” Sachs and Columbia pastor Mel West, both of whom received honorary degrees.
“Be the people of peace. Live a life of peace and make a world full of peace,” J.D. Bowers, director of the Honors College, told the crowd during the commencement ceremony in Mizzou Arena.
Sachs received an honorary degree as Doctor of Laws, and West received an honorary degree as Doctor of Humane Letters.
Sachs was a civil rights attorney who defended people charged under racial statutes during the period of apartheid in South Africa. He was arrested and later went into exile in England and Mozambique. Sachs lost an arm and his sight in one eye in 1988 after a bomb was placed in his car by South African security agents.
In 1990, Sachs returned to South Africa from exile in Mozambique. He acted as a member of the Constitutional Committee of the African National Congress where he helped South Africa become a constitutional democracy.
President Nelson Mandela appointed Sachs to serve on the constitutional court after the 1994 election.
“Do I look like a tiger?” Sachs asked the crowd Saturday after he was awarded his honorary degree. He spoke about the qualities of a tiger and how the students and faculty of MU display similar characteristics of “elegance and fearlessness.”
West, a retired Methodist minister, shared various quotes from Gandhi, John Wesley and others about the importance of goodness and giving back. West is known as the founder of Mobility Worldwide, which makes wheeled carts for the disabled in developing nations.
The mobility carts, called Personal Energy Transportation or PETs, are assembled and packaged in 29 locations, including Columbia. Hundreds of PETs are distributed each year in 104 countries.
During the convocation, Chancellor Alexander Cartwright thanked the family members, friends and others who contributed to the success of the honors graduates.
“Success like this does not occur in a vacuum,” Cartwright said.
When recognizing what the Class of 2019 had accomplished, Bowers told its members that he was also a senior this year, marking his fourth year at MU. Four years ago, the campus was in upheaval after a series of racial protests.
“When we started, Mizzou was at an apex, although we had no way of knowing that,” Bowers said. “We were very quickly thrust into one of the university’s most challenging times. We worked together to improve the university for us all, to emerge here today in this arena as part of a stronger school and at a stronger place in its history, perhaps more so than ever.”
MU commencement celebrations will continue until Sunday evening.