It took eight brutal years of prison, and a lifetime of passionate politics and an unwavering sense of justice for Barbara Hogan to earn a Doctor of Humane Letters from UMass Lowell.
On Monday, April 11, at the close of a three-day International Women Leaders’ Summit on Security through Economic and Social Development, Hogan, 59, was feted with the honorary degree for her courage and steadfastness in helping to upend South Africa’s apartheid rule.
UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan said before Hogan was decorated, that she, “always stood up for what is right, even when she knew she would pay severe consequences.”
Hogan, who noted she never had the chance to finish her bachelor’s degree because of the timing of her prison term, said she was “doubly honored” to receive the degree before her fellow conference attendees.
“I did it,” she said, smiling, addressing her late father.
Fought Tyranny of Apartheid
She spoke at length of the struggle in South Africa, her attraction to the outlawed African National Congress (ANC), and its charismatic leader, and eventual friend, Nelson Mandela. She said some found it odd a white woman would become so active in the ANC. It was the tyranny of the system of apartheid they fought, not just the race that enforced it, she said.
She said one of the best testimonies that the country’s AIDS/HIV policy she changed is effective is that funeral parlors are going out of business.
Hogan was joined in Lowell by her husband, Ahmed Kathrada, also known for his anti-apartheid activism.
Hogan is symbolic of, and has long been a driving force behind, the liberating change that has swept through South Africa.
As UMass Senior Vice President Marcellette Williams noted in her introduction, Hogan fought South African apartheid from the underground, then from prison in Pretoria. Eventually, as South Africa’s Minister of Health and Minister of Public Enterprises in the Cabinet of South Africa, she helped modernize the country’s AIDS/HIV policy.
Hogan was imprisoned in Pretoria in 1982 and freed in 1990.
James Karam, chair of the UMass Board of Trustees, also spoke his admiration for Hogan, whom he first met on a trip to South Africa in 2006.
“So this is five years in the making,” Karam said.
The ceremony included a performance of the South African National Anthem by The Mystic Chorale and a video tribute to Hogan narrated by Morgan Freeman. The event was preceded by a reception with music supplied by the UMass Lowell Chamber Ensemble, a string quartet.
UMass President Jack Wilson officiated at the ceremony, which drew more than 150 people to the Inn & Conference Center’s Ballroom.