Last modified: Friday, October 7, 2011
Indiana University congratulates Liberian president on Nobel Peace Prize
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 7, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University officials welcomed the news today (Oct. 7) that Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will share the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. The university awarded Sirleaf an honorary degree in 2008 in recognition of her efforts for rebuilding Liberia following a long period of civil war as well as longstanding ties between IU and Liberia.
"On behalf of Indiana University, I would like to extend my most sincere congratulations to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today for her dedicated role in promoting peace, democracy and women's rights around the world," IU President Michael A. McRobbie said.
"Indiana University had the distinct pleasure of presenting President Sirleaf with an honorary doctorate during commencement ceremonies in 2008," he added. "This award recognized her tremendous contributions to justice, equality and human rights. It also reflected IU's long and productive partnership with Liberia, which dates back to research conducted in the 1930s and has resulted in successful efforts to help rebuild the country's legal education system, guide constitutional reform and preserve its rich culture and heritage. Numerous IU scholars have helped lead these efforts, including, among others, Amos Sawyer, former interim president of Liberia and a research scholar with the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at IU.
"Over the years, President Sirleaf has faced great -- sometimes inconceivable -- challenges as she has worked to rebuild her country, and she has met them with unyielding courage, strength and determination. In doing so, she has been an inspiration to all of us."
The Nobel committee announced that Sirleaf will share the prize with Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman of Yemen, a pro-democracy campaigner. It will be presented in December in Oslo.
"Indiana University is thrilled with the news of a Nobel Peace Prize for Ellen Sirleaf, president of Liberia and her Liberian compatriot, Leymah Gbowee," said IU Vice President for International Affairs David Zaret.
"During President Sirleaf's visit to IU in 2008, she asked the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs to assist in the development of programs at the University of Liberia," Zaret said. "Shortly thereafter, she appointed IU alumnus Emmet Dennis as president of the Liberian University. Since then, she has met on three occasions in Liberia with Charles Reafsnyder, associate vice president for international research and development, and other members of visiting IU delegations. We are tremendously proud of President Sirleaf's contributions to Liberia and her personal support of IU's involvement with the University of Liberia."
Patrick O'Meara, who served as dean and then vice president for international affairs for the last two decades until stepping down in June and has been an African scholar at IU since the 1960s, said of Sirleaf, "This is a remarkable woman who took the leadership of a war-torn country and who courageously has helped to rebuild it toward increasing stability. She's had to contend with warlords, child soldiers and the atrocities of the past.
"She's also been a symbol of the strength of a woman leader in a continent that has for so long been dominated by male politicians," he said. "She is someone who has also attempted to move her society away from corrupt practices and this, in itself, has been a truly remarkable achievement. The Nobel Peace Prize is a real recognition of a woman who has made a difference and has affected millions of lives."
O'Meara, who now chairs IU's Center for International Education and Development Assistance, hosted Sirleaf for several days during her 2008 visit to Bloomington.
"I was constantly impressed with her down-to-earth approach to living in every sense of the term," he said. "While she was in Bloomington, I was delighted to see a woman with an extraordinary sense of humor and practicality. Indiana University has had an extraordinary set of linkages with her country, and she was particularly pleased to hear more about them."
Amos Sawyer, a key Sirleaf adviser and chair of the Liberian governance reform commission, said today the prize is "a sheer delight" for Liberians and the president's supporters.
"This is a much-deserved honor that, in a symbolic way, caps her public service career in a subregion that has been plagued with conflict," he said. "Coming as it does on the eve of national elections, it should be seen as a deserved boost to her candidacy and an international validation of her work. Those of us who work with her think this award should reinforce the commitment to the reform agenda, including public-sector reform and above all the agenda for national reconciliation."
IU has a long history of research interest and involvement in Liberia. Claude Clegg, professor of history at IU Bloomington, has published extensively on Liberian history. IU has the world's leading collection of Liberian documents, and the late Gus Liebenow was a great authority on Liberian politics and is still widely remembered and recognized in Liberia.
The Workshop on Political Theory has provided research support and an intellectual framework for governance reform in Liberia. Ruth Stone, associate provost for research, is an expert on Liberian music, and her husband, Verlon, has been involved in the preservation of Liberian archives and land tenure records through the Liberian Collections Project at IU.
Discussions between IU and the University of Liberia since 2008 have led to the development of a consortium within and outside of IU, with partners including the IU School of Nursing, the IU School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, staff of the IU Center for Genomics and Bio-Informatics and the Liberian Collections Project. The IU Maurer School of Law has had a partnership with the Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia.
"We anticipate several announcements in the coming weeks that are the fruit of these collaborations between IU and Liberian counterparts," Reafsnyder said.