Rwandan Genocide survivor and author Immaculée Ilibagiza will deliver the commencement address at this year’s graduation on the Queens campus, University officials announced yesterday. Ilibagiza is the author of the New York Times best-selling autobiography, Left to Tell, which chronicles her 91 days spent in a bathroom with seven other women to escape the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.
Since emigrating to the U.S. in 1998, Illibagiza has worked for the United Nations, been the focal point of a documentary called The Diary of Immaculee, appeared on CBS’ 60 Minutes, CNN, EWTN and elsewhere.
“She has made hundreds of appearances all over the world to tell her tragic story and convey a powerful message of how her faith and beliefs got her through these trying times,” said Dominic Scianna, director of Media Relations.
Scianna also said the University is “thrilled” to have her speak during this year’s graduation and that St. John’s would bestow Ilibagiza with an International Medal from the University, given for distinguished contributions to global goodwill.
Illibagiza has visited the University before. She delivered a lecture in the Little Theatre in 2007 for Founder’s Week. St. John’s announced last week that Bruce Beck, a WNBC-TV sports broadcaster, would be delivering the commencement address for the Staten Island campus on May 16.
University president Rev. Donald J. Harrington gave the commencement speech for the Queens campus graduation last year.