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Humanitarian to address Saint Mary’s graduates

| Friday, May 16, 2014

Editor’s Note: A version of this article appeared in the March 17 edition of The Observer.

Judith Mayotte, a humanitarian, professor, author and Emmy Award-winning television producer, will deliver the 167th Commencement address at Saint Mary’s College on May 17, according to a press release.  

Mayotte and Helen Murray Free, a pionnering chemist, will receive honorary doctor of humanities degrees from the College at the ceremony. 

“I am delighted to recognize two exceptional women this year with honorary degrees from Saint Mary’s College,” Saint Mary’s College President Carol Ann Mooney said. “Their backgrounds and achievements fit perfectly with our dreams for our graduates.” 

“Judith Mayotte is an internationally recognized humanitarian who has spent her life working to affect positive change for refugees and others. Helen Murray Free’s discoveries in the field of chemistry improved health monitoring for people with diabetes and other conditions. I look forward to meeting them both and learning more about their extraordinary lives.” 

Jerome McElroy, Saint Mary’s economics professor and close friend of Mayotte, praised Mayotte for exemplifying a life of dedicated service.

“From her Midwest roots in Wichita, Kan., through her remarkable career from convent, to TV journalism, academia and Cape Town, South Africa, Judith Ann Mayotte has demonstrated a life of unstinting excellence in service to the marginalized of the world,” McElroy said.

In the 1960s, Mayotte taught in the inner cities of Los Angeles, Kansas City and Milwaukee as a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, McElroy said.  

In the next two decades, Mayotte worked as a television producer in Chicago and won an Emmy award for writing and producing the “Washington” segment of Turner Broadcasting’s Emmy and Peabody Award winning documentary series, “Portrait of America,” McElroy said.

In 1989, through a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Mayotte began a three-year research journey that took her to the refugee camps in Cambodia, Thailand, Eritrea, Sudan and Pakistan, McElroy said.  This work documented the lives and constrained socio-economic conditions of countless people displaced by ethnic conflict and war and culminated in the book “Displaced People? The Plight of Refugees,” now considered the classic in its field.

Through the years, Mayotte has lectured and written extensively on refugee and development issues. She served as Special Advisor on refugee issues and policy at the Department of State in the first Clinton Administration and as Senior Fellow of the Refugee Policy Group in Washington, McElroy said.  

Prior to working under the first Clinton Administration in 1994, Mayotte was Chairwoman of the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, and served on the board of Refugees International, McElroy said.  

“Both are well-known advocacy organizations that took Mayotte to the field to assess refugee crisis and repatriation issues,” McElroy said.  

She has also held a number of academic posts including Women’s Chair in Humanistic Studies at Marquette University, adjunct professor at John Hopkins Nitze School of Advanced International Studies and co-director of Seattle University’s International Development Internship Program, McElroy said.  

In 2010, she was named the first Desmond Tutu Distinguished Chair in Global Understanding for the University of Virginia’s Semester at Sea, McElroy said.

“[She] is, indeed, a woman of the world whose faith, purpose and determination have made a great difference in the world,” McElroy said.

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