News Archive

Global human rights advocate to accept Buck award

Also served as UN High Commissioner, president of Ireland

10/14/2003 3:29:44 PM

   

LYNCHBURG, Va. — Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland who recently stepped down as United Nations high commissioner for human rights, will be honored as the fourth recipient of Randolph-Macon Woman's College's Pearl S. Buck Award at 2:30P.M. on Saturday, November 22 in Smith Hall Theatre in the Smith Memorial Building on the campus of Randolph-Macon Woman's College. The award recognizes women whose lives and achievements reflect Buck's commitment to human dignity and understanding, and honors the college's most famous alumna. Previous Buck Award winners include woman's rights and peace advocate Jehan Sadat, former Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, and former Philippine President Corazon C. Aquino.

While on campus, Ms. Robinson will take part in public panel discussion on human rights moderated by Jim Hoban, R-MWC professor of communication. The panel will also include R-MWC faculty members Carla Heath, professor of communication; David Schwartz, associate professor of philosophy; Mari Ishibashi, assistant professor of political science; and the William F. Quillian, Jr. Visiting International Professor Lye Tuck-Po. The discussion, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 2:30 P.M. on Friday, November 21 in the Houston Memorial Chapel.

As Ireland's president from 1990 to 1997, Robinson forged new economic and political ties to other nations and particularly reached out to developing countries. She frequently linked the history of the Great Irish Famine to contemporary issues of poverty and malnutrition and was the first head of state to visit Somalia during its 1992 famine, for which she received the CARE International Humanitarian Award. Within Ireland, Robinson's causes included women's rights, and she urged the liberalization of laws preventing divorce.

In her U.N. post from 1997 to 2002, Robinson put a spotlight on human rights by visiting Rwanda, South Africa, Colombia, Cambodia, and other countries that have been criticized for their civil rights records. She was the first U.N. high commissioner to visit China, where she signed an agreement endorsing the improvement of human rights. Similarly, Robinson strengthened U.N. human rights monitoring in over 20 countries and in such war-torn regions as Kosovo in the former Yugoslavia.

Today Robinson serves as director of the Ethical Globalization Initiative, a new venture she formed in partnership with the Aspen Institute, the International Council on Human Rights Policy, and the State of the World Forum. Based in New York, EGI's goal is to advance human rights around the world, in part by making recommendations for integrating those rights into the legal systems of nations worldwide.

Before her election as Ireland's first female head of state, Robinson served as a senator in the Irish parliament for 20 years and gained an international reputation as a constitutional and European civil rights lawyer. She previously had been the youngest Reid Professor of Constitutional and Criminal Law at Trinity College, Dublin. Robinson was also a member of the International Commission of Jurists from 1987 to 1990 and the Advisory Committee of Interrights from 1984 to 1990. She holds law degrees from the King's Inns in Dublin and from Harvard University.

Pearl S. Buck, for whom the award is named, graduated from Randolph-Macon Woman's College in 1914. The first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, she was also a tireless ch



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