Student studying abroad receives rare, memorable opportunity
(May 9, 2005) GENEVA, N.Y.— Last week, as her classmates back in Geneva were taking their final exams, William Smith sophomore Leanne Roncolato was sitting in the Cape Town, South Africa, office of Archbishop Desmond Tutu interviewing the man she considers a personal idol. While participating in the Colleges’ study abroad program to South Africa this semester, Roncolato obtained the interview through the friend of Thelma Pinto, a language instructor at HWS.
“In the short half-hour meeting we discussed many issues including his stance on violence, globalization and the issues of humility,” says Roncolato, who has been working this semester on an independent study on Black and African theology in South Africa during the struggle. Roncolato’s interview with Tutu opened with questions about the role of peacemaker in South Africa and continued with questions about the difficulties advocating for nonviolence and about passivism.
Archbishop Tutu became a national and international figure when he was the first black General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches, a position he held until 1985. He has led a formidable crusade in support of justice and racial conciliation in South Africa and this work was recognized in 1984, when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Following a short stint as the Bishop of Johannesburg, Tutu was elected Archbishop of Cape Town in 1986, an office he held until his retirement in 1996.
“He preaches a very affirming message of God’s love and acceptance of all people, which is evident not only in his words but also in his warm manner of being and jovial attitude,” she says. “Speaking with Desmond Tutu was a wonderful experience of realizing the humility of an international icon and personal idol.”
The HWS South Africa program is based in Cape Town on the Western Cape in conjunction with the University of the Western Cape (UWC), where students reside and take some classes. The program is suited to students in many fields but is of particular interest to those studying Africana studies, history, literature, sociology and the natural sciences.
Roncolato is from Meadville, Pa. and is the daughter of Mr. David and Rev. Sarah Roncolato.