UN's Karen Koning AbuZayd '63 to Deliver Commencement Address to 2007 Graduates
November 15, 2006
November 15, 2006, Greencastle, Ind. - Karen Koning AbuZayd, commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and 1963 graduate of DePauw University, will deliver the address to graduates at DePauw's 168th annual commencement in May. The ceremony will take place Sunday, May 20, 2007 at 1 p.m. on the lawn of historic East College (weather permitting). AbuZayd will also receive the McNaughton Medal for Public Service.
AbuZayd was chosen by a selection committee composed of DePauw seniors and faculty members. "This group has perhaps been the most conscientious to take part in this selection process in recent years," says DePauw President Robert G. Bottoms. "Mrs. AbuZayd is very pleased to be asked and immediately agreed to serve in this capacity. As someone who has worked tirelessly to aid people around the world, I know she will bring a thoughtful and powerful message that will resonate with our graduates long after the ceremony concludes."
Karen Koning AbuZayd received a bachelor's degree in nursing from DePauw in 1963, and a master's in Islamic Studies from McGill University. In June 2005, she was appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to lead the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, described as "the main source of support for Palestinian refugees for the past 55 years."
In August 2000, AbuZayd became an assistant secretary-general of the United Nations, appointed to the post of deputy commissioner-general of the UNRWA. Prior to that, she worked for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for 19 years. She began her humanitarian career in Sudan in 1981, dealing with Ugandan, Chadian and Ethiopian refugees fleeing from war and famine in their own countries. From Sudan she moved to Namibia in 1989 to help coordinate the return of apartheid era refugees, a successful repatriation operation which led to elections and independence. A year later the Liberian civil war erupted and AbuZayd moved to Sierra Leone to head the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) office in Freetown, initiating a new emergency response, that of settling 100,000 Liberians in 600 villages along the Liberian/Sierra Leone border.
From 1991-93 in UNHCR's Geneva headquarters, AbuZayd directed the South African repatriation operation and the Kenya-Somali cross-border operation. She left Geneva to go to Sarajevo as chief of mission for two years during the Bosnian war. Four million displaced and war-affected people were kept alive by UNHCR's airlift and convoy activities, while thousands more were protected from ethnic cleansing by a UNHCR presence. AbuZayd also served as Chef de Cabinet to High Commissioner Sadako Ogata and as regional representative for the United States and Caribbean, where she focused on funding, public information and the legal issues of asylum-seekers.
In her early career, Karen AbuZayd lectured in political science and Islamic studies at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, and at Juba University in southern Sudan.
For more information on DePauw's 167th Annual Commencement, click here.
The 2007 commencement committee is composed of seniors Frank Aba-Onu, Kyle Aberle, Ashley Baxstrom, Janelle Beckford, Kanishka Bhattacharya, Alex Boucher, Emma Brown, Danielle Dravet, Kareem Edwards, Elisabeth "Bess" Evans, Kathi Harland, Kyle Hawkins, Kendra Hormann, Miguel Jimenez, Ben Jones, Patrick Lowe, Vanessa McKenzie, Patricia McShane, Annie Schaufele, Shelby Sleight and Nishita Trisal; faculty members Joyce Dixon-Fyle, Caroline Gilson and Barbara Whitehead; and staff member Marshall Jones.Back