Honorary degree recipient and Hobart and William Smith alumni/ae parent recognized for her advocacy of the environment, democracy building and human rights
(Oct. 8, 2004) GENEVA, N.Y.– Wangari Muta Maathai P’94, P’96, Sc.D.’94, a Hobart and William Smith Colleges honorary degree recipient in 1994, has been awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. Maathai is the deputy environment minister of Kenya. She also is the mother of Muta, a 1996 Hobart graduate, and Wanjira, a 1994 graduate of William Smith.
Maathai, 64, is the first African woman to win the prize. She was cited for her work as leader of the Green Belt Movement, which has planted more than 30 million trees across Africa. She also has campaigned for broader women’s rights.
According to Reuters, Maathai planted a tree in her hometown of Nyeri, in the shadow of Mount Kenya, upon learning that she had won.
While her children were attending Hobart and William Smith Colleges in the 1990s, Maathai gave a talk to the student body on the Green Belt Movement. Elena Ciletti, associate professor of art, remembers the talk and calls it the best she has ever heard. “When you heard her speak you just knew that the world could be improved,” said Ciletti.
Maathai also spoke at the Baccalaureate service for the Classes of 1994. The next day, she received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Hobart and William Smith during Commencement exercises. In 1996, she was the Commencement speaker at HWS when her son graduated.
Maathai obtained a degree in biological sciences from Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kan., in 1964, going on to become an academician and teaching zoology at Nairobi University. She was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate.
The Nobel Peace prize, worth 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.36 million), will be awarded in Oslo on Dec. 10.
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