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Nuclear Disarmament Advocate to be Honoured at Waterloo Convocation

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Conrad Grebel University College is pleased to have nominated Setsuko Thurlow for an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree (LLD) from the University of Waterloo for her outstanding contribution to society as an advocate for peace and nuclear disarmament.

Since surviving the atomic bombing of Hiroshima at the age of 13, Setsuko Thurlow has spent a lifetime advocating for a ban on nuclear weapons. As a representative of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Thurlow was a co-recipient of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.  She played a pivotal role in the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by the United Nations last year. Thurlow is an active participant in the work of Project Ploughshares, a peace research organization located in the Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement at Grebel.

Setsuko ThurlowAccording to ICAN, Thurlow played "a pivotal role" in the negotiations that led to the Treaty. The organization says this about her: "Setsuko's courageous advocacy, sharp analysis and deep conviction make her a formidable opponent to all who claim that these ultimate weapons of mass destruction are legitimate instruments of defense. A living witness to the horrors of nuclear war, she has contributed enormously to the success of ICAN over the past decade."

Last year, Thurlow gave the keynote speech at Project Ploughshares’ 40th anniversary celebration. “Setsuko’s acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize constitutes a richly-deserved recognition of her lifelong work to rid the world of the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons, and of her effective advocacy with ICAN,” noted Cesar Jaramillo, Executive Director at Ploughshares, an ICAN partner closely involved with the effort to negotiate the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. “At Project Ploughshares, we are honored to have worked alongside this formidable woman and heartily welcome her Honorary Doctorate.”

In 1962, Thurlow immigrated to Canada where she earned a master’s degree in social work at University of Toronto. Already in the 1950s, Thurlow became active in opposing nuclear weapons testing in the South Pacific, and in 1974 she founded the organization ‘Hiroshima Nagasaki Relived’ which worked to educate and mobilize a public that was forgetting the devastation in her country. She is a central figure in the Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) Stories Project, a New York-based educational initiative. In 1975, she initiated ‘Hiroshima Day’ in Toronto, which is still marked today, and in 1984 helped establish the Peace Garden at Toronto City Hall. Thurlow has spoken in numerous international contexts, including the United Nations General Assembly, intergovernmental gatherings, and academic conferences. Her speeches are described as inspirational, educational, and motivational.

“Given the University of Waterloo’s specialties in global peace, theoretical physics and other STEM fields of research, an honorary degree for Thurlow is especially relevant,” explained Paul Heidebrecht, Director of the Centre for Peace Advancement. “The world has entered a new and frightening era in which the posturing of nuclear powers makes the possibility of nuclear war more real than it has been for decades. It is important that students understand the power of such weaponry by learning about Thurlow's story and her advocacy work.”

“Thurlow is a powerful example of resilience and hope for young people today,” remarked Marlene Epp, Grebel’s Dean. “This honorary doctorate signals Waterloo’s commitment to research agenda that furthers peace in the world.”

The honorary degree will be conferred on Wednesday, June 13, 2018 at 2:30pm. Thurlow will no doubt inspire the University of Waterloo’s newest graduates with her personal story of survival and hope, as she gives the keynote address at one of the three Faculty of Arts Convocation ceremonies.

To further celebrate this award and Thurlow’s contributions to peace and nuclear disarmament, Grebel, the Centre for Peace Advancement, and Project Ploughshares are hosting “Nukes and the Nobel: A Conversation with 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Recipient and World-renowned Nuclear Ban Advocate Setsuko Thurlow” on Wednesday, June 13, 2018 at 7:30pm in the Grebel Great Hall. A reception will precede the event from 6:45pm to 7:15pm in the Grebel Atrium. Admission is free and open to the public, but registration is requested.

Read More

Reflecting on “Nukes and the Nobel: A Conversation with Setsuko Thurlow"

The Record’s story on Thurlow at the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Arts Convocation ceremony

Photos from the Convocation Ceremony and "Nukes and the Nobel" conversation

A Conversation with Setsuko Thurlow

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