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26 December 2021

Tribute to Archbishop Desmond Tutu

We are greatly saddened that Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a beloved alumnus of King's has died.

780 Desmond Nobel
Desmond Tutu

We are greatly saddened that Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a beloved and honoured alumnus of King's (Theology, 1965; MTh, 1966) has died. He studied theology at King’s in the 1960s and was a Fellow of the College.

Desmond was a teacher in South Africa before becoming a priest and coming to study theology at King’s. He completed both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree here, graduating from the latter in 1966. He then went to teach theology in South Africa before returning to England in 1972 as the Assistant Director of a Theological Institute in London.

In 1975 he was appointed Dean of St. Mary's Cathedral in Johannesburg, the first black person to hold that position. From 1976 to 1978 he was Bishop of Lesotho and in 1978 was appointed as General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches. In 1985 he became Bishop of Johannesburg and in 1986 the Archbishop of Cape Town, the most senior position in southern Africa's Anglican hierarchy.

A prominent campaigner against apartheid in South Africa, Desmond spoke out against the regime throughout the period that Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his work to end apartheid, and in the 1990s he chaired South Africa’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission, investigating the crimes of the period.

Desmond's contributions to King's were immense and in his frequent visits here, he profoundly touched all those he met. Through his sermons, lectures, addresses and acts of worship, and as a teller of wonderful and engaging stories and jokes, he had a seminal effect on students and staff and was a dear friend to many in the King's community.

Professor Shitij Kapur, President & Principal, King's College London

His passion for justice, sense of wonder and joy and incredibly infectious laugh will live in our memories and inspire our own lives.

The Revd Dr Ellen Clark-King, Dean, King's College London

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