Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his unexpected UNF connection

Humanitarian and religious leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu died at the age of 90. Tutu was known around the world for his compassion for man-kind and his push for an end to apartheid. He also had a special connection to Jacksonville.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Desmond Tutu, South Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning icon, an uncompromising foe of the country’s past racist policy of apartheid and a modern-day activist for racial justice and LGBT rights, died Sunday at 90. South Africans, world leaders and people around the globe mourned the death of the man viewed as the country’s moral conscience.

One of those who mourned Tutu’s death on Sunday was former Jacksonville mayor and president of the University of North Florida John Delaney.

Tutu taught “The Struggle Against Apartheid” mini-courses at the school during the spring semester in 2003 and maintained his relationship with UNF for years thanks to friend Oupa Seane who was a professor there.

“Was blessed to have dinner with Desmond Tutu before interviewing him on stage at UNF. Great sense of humor and brilliance into mankind and God, often in same sentence. Several times a year, he would send an email or text out of the blue offering a prayer. We lost greatness today,” Delaney tweeted.

Tutu donated a collection of his papers to UNF’s Thomas G. Carpenter Library in honor of Delaney for 15 years leading the university and his retirement.

The Archbishop Desmund Tutu Collection was presented to Delaney in 2018 during the university’s annual Professional Development Forum Awards Luncheon.

The manuscripts will become part of the Library’s permanent collection and it’s Tutu’s desire that the documents be placed in the university archives and made available for institutional research by faculty and students.

The collection includes:

  • Two book manuscripts. These are texts that he created while writing the books. At the time he was writing the text, the books weren’t published, so these are rough drafts. The books have since been published are: “Number Two to Tutu A Memoir by Michael Nuttall” and “God Has a Dream by Desmond Tutu,” which he wrote while teaching at UNF.
  • Handwritten notes
  • Class notes while teaching at UNF
  • Speeches that he was making around the world at the time
  • Correspondence with his friends and his assistant

Tutu also came to UNF in 1999 as part of the Presidential Lecture Series. Behind both visits was Ceane, a former assistant director for the Center of International Business Studies at UNF, professor, and friend of Tutu’s from the days when Tutu was dean of the cathedral in Johannesburg, according to the Jacksonville Daily Record.


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Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.