Helen Suzman


Honorary Degree (1992)
Doctor of Laws
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: Thomas Ehrlich


Helen Suzman served in the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa from 1953 to 1990. During those four decades, she led in supporting the liberties of politically and socially oppressed peoples. Most often hers was the lone voice that was raised in the Parliament in opposition to apartheid.

Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, as the sole representative of the Progressive Federal Party in Parliament, Mrs. Suzman represented the party's anti-apartheid position on every issue of domestic and foreign policy in a climate of hostility and disdain. She unflaggingly opposed legislation that discriminated against the black majority in South Africa, and drew the world's attention to the deplorable living conditions in black townships and attrocities committed in South African prisons.

Both at home and abroad, Mrs. Suzman has upheld the principles of liberalism and decency with fortitude, wit, and compassion. The recent achievements in civil rights in South Africa and the dismantling of apartheid owe much to her active and unfailing conviction that reason would prevail.

Helen Suzman was born and educated in South Africa. Her distinguished leadership has been recognized with numerous international honors, including the United Nations Award of the International League for Human Rights and the American Liberties Medallion. She has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II of England.

Mrs. Suzman is an honorary fellow of St. Hugh's College, Oxford and the London School of Economics, and has received honorary doctorates from Oxford, Harvard, Columbia, Brandeis, and Dennison universities, and the University of Cape Town.