Kenneth Rutherford, landmine survivor and advocate, to speak at 120th commencement

Kenneth Rutherford

Dr. Kenneth Rutherford, director of the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery (CISR) and professor of political science at James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia, will be the keynote speaker at Goshen College’s 120th commencement ceremony on Sunday, April 29 at 3 p.m. in the Roman Gingerich Recreation-Fitness Center.

“This year as a campus community we have focused on our core value of compassionate peacemaking,” said Provost Ken Newbold, who worked with Rutherford at JMU. “Dr. Rutherford’s work demonstrates true peacemaking through his engagement with leaders from across religious backgrounds, political affiliations and governmental organizations. He has contributed significantly to making the world a safer place by bringing people together in working towards a common good.”

See the graduation webpage for a full schedule of events and other helpful information about Commencement Weekend.

On December 16, 1993, while working for the International Rescue Committee in Somalia, Rutherford’s vehicle struck a landmine, injuring him severely. One leg was amputated to save his life and the second one amputated several years later. This experience set him on a path of advocacy for landmine survivors and landmine removal.

“It was an experience that fundamentally altered my life for the good,” Rutherford said. “It crystallized my vision of what I believe I was put on this Earth to do.”

Kenneth Rutherford
Kenneth Rutherford (right) with a fellow landmine survivor in Vietnam.

Rutherford co-founded Landmine Survivors Network in 1995, which later became Survivor Corps. He accompanied Princess Diana on her last humanitarian mission to visit landmine survivors in Bosnia-Herzegovina in August 1997, only three weeks before her death. Rutherford was a prominent leader in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, resulting in  the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.

Rutherford’s story and work has been profiled in Reader’s Digest and on television, including the BBC, NBC Dateline, HBO, The View and Oprah.

Rutherford is the author or co-editor of five books, including “Disarming States: The International Movement to Ban Landmines;” “Humanitarianism Under Fire: The U.S. and U.N. Intervention in Somalia;” “Landmines and Human Security: International Politics and War’s Hidden Legacy;” “Reframing the Agenda: The Impact of NGO and Middle Power Cooperation in International Security Politics;” and “America’s Buried History: Landmines in the Civil War” (forthcoming Spring 2018).

He has testified before Congress and the United Nations, and also published more than 40 articles in numerous academic and policy journals, including World Politics, Journal of International Politics, Journal of International Law and Policy. Dr. Rutherford has delivered presentations on landmines and conventional weapons destruction in more than thirty-six countries and has been quoted in numerous publications, including The New York Times, USA Today and International Herald Tribune.

He is the recipient of the Leadership in International Rehabilitation Award by Northwestern University (1998), Survivor’s Award by the Marshal Legacy Institute (1999), United Nations Association-USA humanitarian award by Sir Paul McCartney (2002), “Everyday Hero” award, selected as one of 25 American “everyday heroes” by United Airlines from 10,000 nominations, the Human Security Award by the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs at the University of California, Irvine (2014) and Global Citizen of the Year by Roots of Peace (2015). In 2013 Rutherford was included among the “one hundred most influential people in armed violence reduction” by the London-based organization Action on Armed Violence.

Previously, Dr. Rutherford served on the political science faculty at Missouri State University (MSU), where he was recipient of the Public Affairs Professorship (2009), Outstanding Leadership Award” (2007), and the Student Choice Award (2006–2007) “for outstanding service rendered unto the Student Population of Missouri State and for distinction of service to the MSU student body. It’s the highest honor that the students can bestow.” Prior to this, he served as a humanitarian worker in Kenya, Mauritania, Senegal and Somalia.

Dr. Rutherford holds a Ph.D. from Georgetown University, and bachelor’s and MBA degrees from the University of Colorado, where he was inducted into its Hall of Fame for distinguished alumni (2004).

Schedule of Goshen College’s 120th Commencement Weekend activities:

Saturday, April 28
1:30 p.m. – Nurses’ Pinning Ceremony, Church-Chapel
1:30-5 p.m. – Department receptions – graduates and families meet informally with professors
7:30 p.m. – Graduate Celebration, Music Center’s Sauder Concert Hall

8:45 p.m. – President’s Reception for graduates and families, Music Center lobby

Sunday, April 29

11 a.m. – Baccalaureate service, with address by President Rebecca J. Stoltzfus, Church-Chapel

3 p.m. – 120th Annual Commencement Ceremony, with address by Kenneth Rutherford, Roman Gingerich Recreation-Fitness Center

No admission tickets needed. Spanish translation headsets and assisted listening devices are available for all who need them. ASL translation is also offered and the space is wheelchair accessible. (For those unable to attend, watch the live-streaming of the ceremony.)