University of South Carolina

A story of suffering, courage and leadership

By Megan Sexton,, 803-777-1421

Deo Niyizonkiza has an extraordinary story to tell.

A medical student in the Eastern African nation of Burundi during the Hutu-Tutsi genocide, he was working in a hospital when violence broke out. The hospital was demolished by rebel soldiers; he was the lone survivor. Traveling alone, he escaped Burundi and made it to the U.S. He knew no one, didn’t speak English and had just $200 when he arrived. Within two years, he was attending Columbia University.

He went on to medical school and has since established Village Health Works in Burundi. The clinic opened in 2007 and has served more than 55,000 people, regardless of their ethnicity, sex or ability to pay.

It’s a story of both astounding human suffering and astonishing courage.

Niyizonkiza, the protagonist in Tracy Kidder’s book “Strength in What Remains,” will bring his story to the University of South Carolina Feb. 25 as the featured speaker at the second annual President’s Leadership Dialogue. Niyizonkiza will join USC President Harris Pastides for the 7 p.m. lecture in Drayton Hall, which is free and open to the public.

Kirk Randazzo, director of USC’s Carolina Leadership Initiative, said Niyizonkiza is the perfect choice as speaker.

“When we first started discussing potential candidates for the dialogue, everyone agreed that we wanted an individual who had demonstrated leadership experience, not just someone who researches or talks about leadership,” Randazzo said. “Deo is the ideal person because of his remarkable experience and the leadership he displayed.”

The leadership dialogue is part of the Carolina Leadership Initiative, an organization that promotes leadership development on campus and helps create new leadership projects. The initiative is designed to help students develop the motivation and the skills to make a positive difference in their local communities, throughout the state of South Carolina and around the nation and world.

News and Internal Communications

Posted: 02/11/13 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 02/13/13 @ 11:48 AM | Permalink

President's Leadership Dialogue

  • Speaker: Deogratias Niyizonkiza
  • When: 7 p.m., Feb. 25
  • Where: Drayton Hall, University of South Carolina
  • Cost: Free and open to the public

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