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Desmond Tutu

Institution:
King's College London

Discipline:
Theology

Country of Origin:
South Africa

Study Destination:
United Kingdom

Year of Graduation:
1966

Year inducted into Hall of Fame:
2015

Desmond Tutu

Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born in Klerksdorp, Transvaal.  His father was a teacher and his mother was a cleaner and cook at a school for the blind. Here he met Trevor Huddleston, who was a parish priest in the black slum of Sophiatown. "One day," said Tutu, "I was standing in the street with my mother when a white man in a priest's clothing walked past. As he passed us he took off his hat to my mother. I couldn't believe my eyes—a white man who greeted a black working class woman!"

Although Tutu wanted to become a doctor, his family could not afford the training, and he followed his father's footsteps into teaching. Tutu studied at the Pretoria Bantu Normal College from 1951 to 1953, and went on to teach at Johannesburg Bantu High School and at Munsienville High School in Mogale City. However, he resigned following the passage of the Bantu Education Act, in protest to the poor educational prospects for black South Africans. He continued his studies, this time in theology, at St Peter's Theological College in Rosettenville, Johannesburg, and in December 1961 was ordained as an Anglican priest following in the footsteps of his mentor and fellow activist, Trevor Huddleston.

Tutu then travelled to King's College London, (1962–1966), where he received his bachelor's and master's degrees in theology. During this time he worked as a part-time curate, first at St Alban's Church, Golders Green, and then at St Mary's Church in Bletchingley, Surrey. He later returned to South Africa and from 1967 until 1972 used his lectures to highlight the circumstances of the African population. He became chaplain at the University of Fort Hare in 1967. From 1970 to 1972, Tutu lectured at the National University of Lesotho.

In 1972, Tutu returned to the UK, where he was appointed vice-director of the Theological Education Fund of the World Council of Churches, at Bromley in Kent. He returned to South Africa in 1975 and was appointed Dean of St Mary's Cathedral in Johannesburg.