Lawrence University will recognize Gil Loescher, a visiting professor at the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree during commencement ceremonies coming Sunday. Loesher’s also received an honorary doctorate of law in 2006 from the University of Notre Dame.

In a career spanning more than 40 years, Loescher has established himself as an authority on refugee policy. Prior to joining Oxford’s Refugee Studies Centre in 2008, Loescher held appointments as Senior Fellow for Forced Migration and International Security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London and as senior researcher at the European Council on Refugees and Exiles. According to Loescher, containing refugees in camps prevents them from contributing to regional development and state-building. In August 2003, Loescher was in the office of Sérgio Vieira de Mello, then the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad when a suicide bomber detonated a truck bomb outside the building. The blast killed more than 20 people and injured more than 100. Loescher was among nine people in the office at the time of the explosion, seven of whom were killed instantly. Loescher and Vieria de Mello were trapped in the debris of the collapsed building as American soldiers spent more than three hours trying to rescue them. Vieria de Mello died before he could be extricated. Loescher survived, although his legs were crushed and had to be amputated by the soldiers.  A moving film, “Pulled from the Rubble,” was directed by Loescher’s daughter, Margaret, about this episode. [Beguiled Eye Productions [gb]]

He has been recognized with numerous honors and research grants from organizations ranging from the Ford Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation to the Fulbright Program and the British Academy.