On Thursday evening, we learned of the passing of Former President Nelson Mandela and while we felt a great sense of loss, we were immediately reminded of the extraordinary legacy of this remarkable human being. Affectingly known as Madiba, President Mandela has touched the world in a very special and unique way. He was a bright and shining star, an example what it truly means to live the magnificent South African philosophy of Ubuntu – “I can’t be all I can be until you can be all you can be.” As President Obama so beautifully stated, “Mandela is no longer ours, he now belongs to the ages.”
On a personal note, I will always remember the beautiful day in June 1990 when Madiba came to Boston just four months after his release from prison. I was privileged to attend the luncheon at the John F. Kennedy Library hosted by Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Mrs. Jacqueline Onassis. It was truly a unique and momentous occasion. We were proud of our great City, and we were in awe to be in the presence of Mandela. His message was short but powerful. He inspired and reaffirmed for me the belief that nothing is impossible. In 2011, I was very pleased to represent Wheelock on a mission to South Africa sponsored by our collaborator South Africa Partners. I returned to Wheelock, touched by the spirit of this remarkable country and the influence of President Mandela. President Mandela often said that “Education is the most powerful weapon you can choose to change the world.” We at Wheelock College can take great solace by our special and unique relationship with the people of South Africa, and the great opportunity we have to use education to advance and improve the world for children and families. For nearly eight years our community has been touched by this great nation. We were privileged to grant an honorary degree to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. We will always remember the extraordinary time he spent on our campus and how we have used the lessons learned to create our own special commitment to Ubuntu here at Wheelock College. We are fortunate to continue our long standing collaboration with South Africa Partners and are thankful for the commitment and dedication of its superb leader, Mary Tiseo, whom we will honor at Commencement. We are grateful for the relationship we have continued with our International Visiting scholars Tony and Hilary Hamburg and their work in Alexander Township, and we take great pride in the amazing work of Wheelock College alum, Toby Milner and her husband Charles, as their strive to improve the lives of children and families in the rural community of Lillydale. We are grateful to Drs. Linda Davis and Lenette Lessing for their incredible efforts in organizing our first Service Learning Trip to South Africa last January and the truly transformative experience for the 10 students who participated. In just less than four weeks, Dr. Lessing and colleague Patty Hnatiuk, will travel to South Africa for our second Service Learning trip. Our students will provide service in Alexandra Township at Ububele, in Lillydale and in East London. They will also visit Robben Island where President Mandela spent 27 years in prison. I believe that our students will return with a deeper appreciation for all that this great man accomplished and even more committed to our special mission to improve the lives of children and families. I thank Lenette and Patty in advance for what I know will be an exceptional experience for our students and for their very special commitment to this great nation and to our students. During this next week, I know you will join me as we witness and share in South Africa’s celebration of the life and legacy of President Nelson Mandela. We will be reminded of his great courage, perseverance, leadership and humanity, and we will be inspired to do more in our quest for human dignity for all. There will be many moving and eloquent tributes. I share this tribute from Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool, South Africa’s Ambassador to the United States. Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool was here at Wheelock last spring when we hosted South Africa Partners inaugural Advisory Committee meeting. I also share a beautiful poem released by the U.S. State Department written by Dr. Maya Angelou for Mandela “on behalf of the American people”. Jackie Jenkins-Scott serves as the thirteenth President of Wheelock College, a private college in Boston, Massachusetts with a public mission to improve the lives of children and families. Under President Jenkins-Scott’s leadership, Wheelock has strengthened its core undergraduate and graduate academic programs, enhanced the undergraduate experience, and expanded the College’s reach internationally. She has emphasized cross disciplinary collaboration and community partnerships.