The American educator and grassroots peace activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to ban landmines will deliver the Baccalaureate address to graduates and their families on Sunday, May 20, 2012 in Packer Memorial Church.
Jody Williams, who was named one of the world’s most powerful women by Forbes magazine, will also receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at the 2012 commencement exercises on May 21.
Lloyd Steffen, University Chaplain and professor of religion studies, lauded Williams’ efforts to ban landmines—which “inflict cruel pain and suffering on the most defenseless of people”—by focusing international attention on the issue.
“When those awarding the Nobel Peace prize decided to bring the world's attention to this issue, they focused not only on the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), but on the person who has been the driving force behind the organization: Jody Williams,” Steffen says. “Ms. Williams was honored in Oslo for her ‘self-sacrificing, untiring and fruitful service to humanity and peace,’ and Lehigh University is honored that so distinguished a global citizen is coming here as our 2012 Baccalaureate speaker."
Williams has served as the chair of the Nobel Women's Initiative since its founding in January 2006. The Initiative brings together the women recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize who use their prestige and access to support the work of women around the world working for peace with justice and equality. The choice of Williams as Baccalaureate speaker is particularly fitting, Steffen notes, as Lehigh celebrates 40 years of women at the university.
Efforts spread to more than 60 countries
Williams shared the 1997 Nobel honor with the ICBL, which she founded. At the time she was selected for the honor, she was the 10th woman—and only the third American woman—in Nobel history to be selected to receive the Prize.
The ICBL was formally launched by six nongovernmental organizations in 1992. Serving as chief strategist and spokesperson of the campaign to ban landmines, Williams has overseen the growth of the ICBL to more than 1,000 NGOs in more than 60 countries.
A prolific writer, her articles have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal, The International Herald Tribune, The Boston Globe, The Toronto Globe & Mail, The Irish Times and The Los Angeles Times.
She has contributed various chapters to several books, including works edited by Walter Cronkite and by Eve Ensler, and she co-authored an early book on the landmine crisis. Her most recent book, Banning Landmines: Disarmament, Citizen Diplomacy and Human Security, was edited with Steve Goose and Mary Wareham and released in March 2008. In it, she analyzed the Mine Ban Treaty and its impact on other human security-related issues. She is currently working on a memoir related to her work for peace and social justice.
Since 2003, Williams has held a distinguished faculty position at the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work. She has served as the Sam and Cele Keeper Endowed Professor of Peace and Social Justice since 2007.
She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Vermont, a Master of Science in Teaching Spanish and English as a Second Language from the School for International Training, and a Master of Science in international relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
In addition to several honorary degrees, Williams has also been recognized as “Woman of the Year” by Ms, Glamour and Vanity Fair magazines. And the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation selected her for its Distinguished Peace Leadership Award.