Nontombi Naomi Tutu to Speak as Wendt Center for Character Education Fall Lecturer

Oct 9, 2015 | J.Crane

On Monday, October 19, the University of Dubuque's Wendt Center for Character Education will host Nontombi Naomi Tutu, race and gender justice activist, who will deliver the lecture, “Courageous Compassion,” which is also the theme of the Wendt Character Initiative this year. The lecture will begin at 7:00 p.m. in Heritage Center’s John and Alice Butler Hall on the University of Dubuque Campus. The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required for admission and may be obtained through the Farber Box Office.

“Ms. Tutu’s passion for compassionate justice and her engaging style compel us to reflect on the needs of this world and challenge us to be actively working to make a difference wherever we are,” says Dr. Annalee Ward, Director of the Wendt Character Initiative.

The challenges of growing up black and female in apartheid South Africa have been the foundation of Nontombi Naomi Tutu’s life as an activist for human rights. Those experiences taught her that our whole human family loses when we accept situations of oppression, and how the teaching and preaching of hate and division injure us all. In her speeches she blends this passion for human dignity with humor and personal stories.

Tutu is the third child of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nomalizo Leah Tutu. She was born in South Africa and had the opportunity to live in many communities and countries. She was educated in Swaziland, the US, and England, and has divided her adult life between South Africa and the US. Growing up the “daughter of…” has offered Naomi Tutu many opportunities and challenges in her life. Most important of these has been the challenge to follow her own path and role in building a better world. She has taken up the challenge and channeled the opportunities she has been given to raise her voice as a champion for the dignity of all.

Her professional experience ranges from being a development consultant in West Africa to being program coordinator for programs on race & gender and gender-based violence in education at the African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town. In addition Tutu has taught at the University of Hartford, University of Connecticut, and Brevard College in North Carolina. She served as program coordinator for the historic Race Relations Institute at Fisk University, and was a part of the Institute’s delegation to the World Conference Against Racism in Durban.

She started her public speaking as a college student at Berea College in Kentucky in the 1970's when she was invited to speak at churches, community groups, and colleges and universities about her experiences growing up in apartheid South Africa. Since that time she has become a much sought-after speaker to groups as varied as business associations, professional conferences, elected officials, and church and civic organizations.

As well as speaking and preaching, Naomi Tutu has established Nozizwe Consulting. Nozizwe means “Mother of Many Lands” in Xhosa and is the name she was given by her maternal grandmother. The guiding principle of Nozizwe Consulting is to bring different groups together to learn from and celebrate their differences and acknowledge their shared humanity. As part of this work she has led Truth and Reconciliation Workshops for groups dealing with different types of conflict. She also offers educational and partnership trips to South Africa for groups as varied as high schools, churches, hospices, K-12 teachers, and women’s associations. These trips emphasize the opportunities to share our stories and experiences.

Nontombi Naomi Tutu plans to pursue a Masters in Divinity and is the single mother of two daughters and a son.

The Wendt Character Initiative was established in 2004 at the University of Dubuque by the endowed Lester and Michael Lester Wendt Character Initiative Fund. The Initiative operates under the care of the Wendt Center for Character Education. This Initiative promotes a campus culture that nurtures the formation of excellent moral character, and encourages all members of the community to live lives of purpose. The work of the Wendt Character Initiative is centered in the University’s Mission and Values, a commitment to its Reformed Christian identity, and a sense of creative vocation in faithful response to the Creator. This Initiative is part of the total educational experience of all University of Dubuque students through curricular and co-curricular programs. Faculty and staff also participate in the Initiative.

Complimentary tickets are required for admission and may be obtained through Heritage Center’s Farber Box Office Monday through Friday from 12:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; by phone at 563.585.SHOW; or online at