By Mary Keister
Richard J. Goldstone, a former South African Supreme Court justice known internationally for his work for human rights and his efforts to end apartheid in South Africa, will be the honorary speaker this May at Beloit College’s 161st commencement ceremony.
The selection came after a year-long vetting process involving the senior class officers and President Scott Bierman.
“Justice Goldstone is an exciting pick for speaker,” said senior class officer Peter Nencka ‘11. “His long record of leadership and demonstrated values reflect the concerns and aspirations of our graduating class.”
The decision was announced in an e-mail Friday by the senior class officers.
“Beloit students pride themselves in their pursuit of issues they believe in and Justice Goldstone’s tenacity as a judge, teacher, and investigator is an exemplary model of passion channeled into meaningful action,” wrote the officers.
From 1991 to 1994, Goldstone chaired South Africa’s Commission of Inquiry regarding Public Violence and Intimidation, which became known as the Goldstone Commission. Through the commission, Goldstone played an essential part of South Africa’s transition from apartheid to a multiracial democracy.
In addition to his time on South Africa’s Supreme Court, Justice Goldstone also served as a justice on the Constitutional Court of South Africa from July 1994 to Oct. 2003. He was the first chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda from Aug. 1994 to Sept. 1996. He also chaired the International Independent Inquiry on Kosovo from Aug. 199 to Dec. 2001. Goldstone recently served as the head of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.
Goldstone previously visited Beloit College as the 2006-2007 Weissberg Chair in International Studies, addressing the theme of transitional justice.
In an e-mailed statement about Goldstone’s selection, Bierman commented: “The senior class officers and I, in consultation with many people around campus and off-campus, developed a healthy list of luminaries, all of whom would have been wonderful commencement speakers. But, we quickly agreed that Justice Goldstone brings a complex worldly perspective grounded in ethical principles that is particularly timely and important for Beloit College graduates.The fact that he has been so courageous in putting his subtle, reasoned, and principled beliefs into his own highly visible decision making offers a model for our new graduates as they begin their own purposeful lives of consequence.”
This year’s commencement ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 15 in front of Middle College. The event is free and open to the public. No tickets are required. In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held in the Sports Center’s Flood Arena.
*Editorial disclosure: The reporter is a senior class officer and therefore was part of the selection process of the commencement speaker.