Deogratias Niyizonkiza, Doctor of Laws

Your life story is so dramatic that it is surprising to find the telling of it, in Tracy Kidder’s Strength in What Remains, in the nonfiction section of the bookstore. While you were a medical student in Burundi, your training hospital became a site of civil war slaughter from which you only narrowly escaped. After a harrowing journey, you arrived in New York City a refugee with $200, no English, and no contacts. Sleeping each night first in an abandoned building and then in Central Park, you managed to find odd jobs until being befriended—first by a nun and then by a couple moved by your predicament. With their help, you attended Columbia University and then the Harvard School of Public Health, and began to work with Paul Farmer’s Partners in Health group. In addition to your uncommon drive and sense of purpose, you somehow inspire heroism in the people around you, from those back home who risked their lives to help save yours to the many here who sacrificed to advance your dream. That dream has been the opening of Village Health Works, which now operates Burundi’s premier health center, along with agricultural development programs, educational services, and income-generating projects for women, and which, by serving both Hutus and Tutsis, is poised to advance healing of many kinds.

I hereby declare you recipient of the honorary degree Doctor of Laws, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining thereto.

June 2, 2013