BATON ROUGE, LA (WVLA) — Since the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela last week, many on the Southern University campus have been speaking out about the great leader's life and legacy.
We all know what an impact Nelson Mandela had on South Africa and the world, but many may be wondering how one man, half a world away, could affect lives here in Baton Rouge. However, that's exactly what's happening at Southern, and it started with a visit more than a decade ago.
Chancellor James Llorens said humble is one word he would use to describe the late Nelson Mandela.
"It was one of those amazing experiences... just be in his presence during that period," Llorens said. "Being around him and observing him on an upfront basis, you realized what I humble person he was and what a sincere person he was in terms of his concern for everyone."
In 2000, Southern University administrators and professors got a chance to meet Mandela. The former South African President gave the university permission to rename it's School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs in his name.
"It's special for us that we can with the knowledge that he was here, and that he supported the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and support Southern University," Llorens said.
"To have a conversation, to shake hands with such a giant and yet very humble down to the earth, he amplified for me that part of the greatness has been very humble in reaching out to all the people," Damien Ejigiri, Dean of Southern's Graduate School, said. "If you do nothing else, touch as many lives as you can."
Even though mandela wasn't from the United States, he made an impact that didn't just hit South Africa, but the world.
"Once he became a free man, and once he was elected to be the president of South Africa, the way he handled that transition from apartheid to a free country," Llorens said. "I think set an example for leaders around the world."
This marks the 13th year since the dedication of the Nelson Mandela School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs.