SU remembers Nelson Mandela's visit to the campus

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Southern University has had a Nelson Mandela School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs since Mandela visited Baton Rouge back in 2000.

He appeared at Spring graduation events on Southern and LSU's campuses.

Mandela actually spent four days in Louisiana. His ride onto Southern's campus was a big celebration. School children, African nationals - the spectrum of Southern's diversity was in that crowd.

Dr. Leon Tarver, the man who invited Mandela to Southern, remembers it well. "I remember a reporter asking him why he came all the way from South Africa to Southern. And he replied 'I came here to honor the work that Southern University is doing in Africa.' and I tell you what, that made my day!"

White supremacists were demonstrating against Mandela's visit at the Radisson Hotel, and as LSU moved to give Mandela an honorary degree at its Spring graduation, Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, criticized the move as being like giving an infamous bomber of a federal building, Timothy McVeigh, a doctorate.

LSU's Chancellor at the time was William Jenkins, a native South African who had witnessed the changes in his country.

Mandela was only 81-years-old when he visited Baton Rouge. At Southern's graduation, he spoke of priorities, including family. He told the graduates that he had 29 grandchildren and six great grandchildren, so he was richer than Bill Gates.

Southern honored Mandela with an honorary degree and with his name, renaming of its Public Policy and Urban Affairs school.

The dean of the school, Dr. William Arp III said "Today the Nelson Mandela School celebrates the life and times of a hero. A man who belonged to the world, a man who fought injustice and by doing so touched the lives of generations yet unborn. He will be missed."

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