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Remembering Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Semester at Sea is saddened to hear of the passing of longtime supporter and friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu lecturing voyagers on board the MV Explorer

About Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu was born in Klerksdorp, Transvaal. After leaving school he trained first as a teacher at Pretoria Bantu Normal College and in 1954 he graduated from the University of South Africa. After three years as a high school teacher he began to study theology, being ordained as a priest in 1960. The years 1962-66 were devoted to further theological study in England leading up to a Master of Theology.

From 1967 to 1972 he taught theology in South Africa before returning to England for three years as the assistant director of a theological institute in London. In 1975 he was appointed Dean of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg, the first Black person to hold that position. From 1976 to 1978 he was Bishop of Lesotho, and in 1978 became the first Black General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches. 

Tutu was a world renowned figure who served as a powerful force in breaking down apartheid and also as a model to humanity through his leadership of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. His passion and dedication led him to earning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. Tutu is an honorary doctor of a number of leading universities in the USA, Britain, and Germany. In 2001, the Desmond Tutu Educational Trust, with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, launched the Desmond Tutu Footprints of the Legends Awards, which recognizes leadership in combating prejudice, human rights, research, and poverty eradication. In 2004, he began serving as Visiting Professor at King’s College London. Later in 2007, he received the International Gandhi Peace Prize. Tutu was awarded the J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding in November 2008. In 2010 Tutu received the African Lifetime Achievement Award from the Millennium Excellence Awards Foundation, an award he accepted in Ghana while sailing on Semester at Sea. 

Semester at Sea Connection

Archbishop Tutu, Semester at Sea Board of Trustee Emeritus, participated in the Semester at Sea program on numerous occasions, sailing on partial voyages in 1984, 1992, 2005, and spring/fall 2013, as well as speaking with students during the program’s numerous visits to Cape Town, South Africa. The Archbishop sailed a full Semester at Sea voyage in Spring 2007 followed by a second full voyage in Fall 2010. The SAS Desmond Tutu Distinguished Chair in Global Understanding was established in his honor in June 2008 in New York City.


My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in what is yours.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has remarked the above quote when translating the Bantu term Ubuntu­–a treasured concept in the Semester at Sea lexicon. Ubuntu captures the essence of Semester at Sea’s multiple-country approach, one which allows participants to experience the interconnectedness of the world’s cultures and communities, and to see and be inspired by the similarities among all of humanity.

The Tutu Ubuntu Scholarship has been created in the legacy of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as a means to award deserving students with the opportunity to promote his message of forgiveness, empowerment, and peace. The first recipient was awarded this scholarship in 2019.  

Archbishop Desmond Tutu will be greatly missed by the Semester at Sea community. 


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