[ skip to content ]


Ruud Lubbers, United Nations high commissioner for refugees, will be the guest speaker for Old Dominion University's spring commencement ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 11, at Foreman Field. Lubbers will also receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

Nearly 2,700 students are eligible to receive degrees.

A former prime minister of the Netherlands, Lubbers began his appointment shortly after the U.N. commemorated the office's 50th anniversary in 2000and took up the mission laid out by the U.N. General Assembly: to provide protection and assistance to refugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is one of the world's principal humanitarian agencies with a staff of more than 5,000 personnel worldwide who help an estimated 22.3 million people in more than 120 countries.

Lubbers' work "has taken him through most of the troubled spots in the world," said Old Dominion President Roseann Runte. "His dedication to humanity and the cause of children, the poor and the displaced is exemplary. He offers us an example of leadership and volunteering. A truly great man, he has made humanitarian aid his life's work."

Lubbers was elected to a three-year term by the U.N. General Assembly. He succeeded Sadako Ogata, a Japanese diplomat and academic, who had served since 1991. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in nominating Lubbers, said he brought with him "an extraordinary record of high-level accomplishment, not only as prime minister of 12 years…but also as a scholar - as a professor - and an active participant in the work of various private-sector and non-government organizations."

When Lubbers took office in Geneva last year, he noted the agency's proud record of serving refugees, a legacy that he said must be continued, despite UNHCR's dependence on donor funding. "We need financial resources - the cause of refugees deserves financial resources. The UNHCR's critical mission in the international community has become increasingly urgent as events have evolved on the world stage, especially during the past few months."

Lubbers was educated at the Canisius College in Najmegen, the Netherlands, and the Netherlands School of Economics. After managing a family company, he began a long political career in 1973 when he joined the government as minister for economic affairs. He served as prime minister from 1982-94 and was the longest-serving post-war premier.

After leaving politics, Lubbers taught university courses on globalization and sustainable development at Tilburg University in the Netherlands and as a visiting professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He was also vice-chairman of the Independent World Commission on the Oceans and chair of Globus, the Institute for Globalization and Development based in Tilburg. His most recent post was as head of the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Lubbers is the latest in a series of nationally known commencement speakers at Old Dominion. Newsman Tim Russert, comedian Bill Cosby, ABC broadcaster Sam Donaldson and PBS' Mister Rogers have delivered commencement addresses over the past four years.

The rain site for the spring commencement program is Norfolk Scope; university officials will determine the location, based on weather reports, by noon Friday, May 10. Details will be posted on the university's news Web site, http://web.odu.edu/news.

For more information about the ceremony, call 683-3114.

This article was posted on: April 15, 2002

Old Dominion University
Office of University Relations

Room 100 Koch Hall Norfolk, Virginia 23529-0018
Telephone: 757-683-3114

Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.