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Dalai Lama biographer receives honorary degree

Oct. 6, 2009

KALAMAZOO--In recognition of his outstanding contribution to science and humankind at large, Western Michigan University has granted an honorary doctor of laws degree to the official biographer of the Dalai Lama.

Tibet native Ngawangthondup Narkyid received the degree recently during a special alumni event in Poway, Calif., hosted by WMU alumnus Fred Lawrence and his wife, Regina. WMU President John M. Dunn was on hand to confer the degree, which had been approved in late 2008 by the WMU Board of Trustees.

Narkyid, who earned a master's degree in linguistics from WMU in 1971, is a former Tibetan monk. As an acolyte of the Dalai Lama, he was sent to WMU to study linguistics from 1976 to 1986.

His assignment was to bridge Tibetan and English languages and cultures, which he succeeded in doing with distinction. Narkyid went on to become a devoted, well-traveled cultural emissary for the Tibetan government-in-exile. Now in his early 80s, Narkyid has most recently been a consultant on Tibetan language and literature for the Dalai Lama.

"His rich and varied life is that of a scholar, spiritual leader and an important player on the world geopolitical stage," WMU trustees said in a resolution granting the honorary degree.

"All who know Professor Narkyid are impressed with his love for Western Michigan University and the formative time he spent on this campus as a student and teacher. An honorary degree will bring Narkyid well-deserved recognition for his exemplary life's work, and will in turn, redound to the credit of Western Michigan University, which he has been proud to tell the world is his alma mater."

In his youth, Narkyid studied at the Potala Palace in Lhasa as a monk-scholar and later in Beijing. When the Chinese invaded his homeland in 1957, the young man led a diversionary action in Lhasa that allowed the Dalai Lama to escape to India.

Narkyid's devotion to the Dalai Lama led to his service as a linguist, author, inventor, philosopher, scholar and advocate for world peace.

His lifelong support of Tibetan culture and government is evidenced by his roles as the official biographer of the Dalai Lama from 1984 to 2004, as general secretary of the first Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, and as general secretary of foreign affairs for the Parliament.

"Yet, for all his professional and personal accomplishments, Narkyid remains extremely humble and reserved about his talents and contributions," the WMU Board of Trustees resolution adds.

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Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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