Commencement May 22, 2016
Honorary Degree: Doctor of Humane Letters
Conferred on Judith Ann Mayotte
Candidate presented by Hon. Janine P. Geske, member of the Board of Trustees
Long an advocate on behalf of the world’s refugees and internally displaced civilians, today Judith Mayotte focuses her attention on those displaced because of extreme weather events as she lectures and facilitates courses dealing with the imperative of caring for creation in a changing climate.
Before moving to Cape Town, South Africa as Visiting Professor for the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre as well as at The University of the Western Cape, Dr. Mayotte served as Women’s Chair in Humanistic Studies and Visiting Professor in the Department of Theology at Marquette. While at Marquette, she designed and implemented the Marquette University South Africa Service Learning Program. She was the founder and Co-Director of the International Development Internship Program and taught in the History Department at Seattle University.
In 1994 Dr. Mayotte was appointed to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration as Special Adviser on refugee issues and policy. Before joining the State Department, she served Chair of the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, and served on the board of Refugees International. Both are well-known advocacy organizations that took Dr. Mayotte into the field to assess refugee crises and repatriation issues. She served on the board of the International Rescue Committee, one of the largest non-sectarian private voluntary organizations in the United States, and was a Senior Fellow of the Refugee Policy Group of Washington, D.C. She also served on the boards of the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, the Visionaries Institute, and the Global Ethics and Religion Forum.
In her work, Dr. Mayotte has written extensive reports, articles, and editorial pieces, appeared on radio and television, and lectured on refugee and development issues. She has been called to testify as an expert witness before congressional committees concerned with the status of refugees and the direction of U.S. refugee policy.
Through a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Dr. Mayotte researched and wrote a book on long-term refugees. Her three year research odyssey took her to the refugee camps of the Cambodians in Thailand and Cambodia, the Eritreans and internally displaced southern Sudanese in Sudan, and the Afghans in Pakistan, working to document their lives and the conditions that have forced so many of the world’s people into refugee status. Following the publication of Disposable People?: The Plight of Refugees in 1992 and until she lost her right leg in an accident in the war zone in southern Sudan, Dr. Mayotte continued to travel on fact-finding missions among refugees and internally displaced civilians in many of the African, Asian, and Balkan nations caught up in civil conflict and those hosting refugee populations.
Dr. Mayotte is an award-winning television producer and a teacher. In 1978 Mayotte joined WTTW, Chicago’s public broadcasting station, as the Director of Research for the News and Current Affairs Division. There she headed research teams for a variety of local and national specials, series, and documentaries. In 1982 she joined Turner Broadcasting as Senior Researcher and a Producer for the Emmy and Peabody Award winning documentary series Portrait of America. In 1985 she won an Emmy for writing and producing the “Washington” segment of the series.
Because of her tireless and exemplary work in providing voice and witness for others, President Lovell, I hereby recommend Judith Ann Mayotte for the Marquette University degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.