Dr. Wangari Maathai P’94, P’96, Sc.D.’94, the recipient of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize whose two children graduated from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, carried the Olympic flag during the recent ceremonies opening the winter games in Turin, Italy.
You might not have recognized her, as photographers, including David Gray of Reuters, who took the picture at the right, were more focused on Italian actress Sohpia Loren, but Maathai was there, leading the left side of the flag. This year’s ceremony was historic because the flag had never been carried by only women. The six women behind Maathai and Loren were Chilean writer Isabel Allende, American actress Susan Sarandon, Cambodian human rights activist Somaly Mam and gold medalists El Moutawakel, Manuela Di Centa and Maria Mutola.
Maathai received an honorary degree from HWS in 1994, the same year her daughter, Wanjira Mathai, received a bachelor’s degree from William Smith College. Two years later her son, Muta Mathai, received a bachelor’s degree from Hobart College.
Mrs. Maathai is the first African woman and the first environmentalist to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She has been Kenya’s deputy environment minister, and was honored for her leadership in the Green Belt Movement, which has worked to empower women and improve the environment in Africa for nearly 30 years.