Corazon Aquino graduated from the College of Mount Saint Vincent in 1953. She earned a major in French and a minor in Mathematics and later studied law at Far Eastern University in Manila. She was the first female President of the Philippines and Asia’s first female President, serving from 1986 to 1992.
This remarkable person embodied the highest ideals of this College, including faith, service, modesty, and moral courage. In grief following the assassination of her husband, Sen. Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino, Jr., in 1983, she entered politics and helped to lead a peaceful, People Power revolution overthrowing twenty years of dictatorship. Filipinos stopped tanks and troops by kneeling in prayer. They toppled a government without firing a shot.
Amidst the uncertainty and turmoil of revolution, Corazon Aquino's authenticity and virtue made possible public trust and the refounding of democratic institutions. During her presidency, constitutional government was restored and a major agrarian reform was adopted in an ambitious and self-sacrificial effort to serve the poor. For her peaceful, democratic leadership, she was chosen by TIME Magazine as Person of the Year in 1986. The People Power revolution of the Philippines provided the model for other successful revolutions following the disintegration of the Soviet Empire in the following decade.
President Aquino led a saintly life. She had been explicit: her faith was the foundation of her commitment to the dignity and worth of every person and thus to democracy. It was the foundation of her commitment to women's empowerment and social justice. It made her an advocate for the poorest of the poor. And in the years since the end of her presidential term, it made her the moral leader of her nation, a clear and trusted voice for social justice, authentic democracy, opposition to corruption, and peaceful change.
There are heroic figures in history. Corazon Aquino is one of them. The College of Mount Saint Vincent is very proud to have been an influence in her life, and she was unwavering in her affection for the College. She returned to Mount Saint Vincent to receive the Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa, to be honored with the College’s Saint Vincent de Paul Award at the annual Scholarship Tribute Dinner, and to receive the College’s highest honor, The Elizabeth Seton Medal.
Corazon Aquino will be rightly memorialized in many ways, but we know that, in her humility, she would be most honored by those who seek to emulate her virtues.
Charles L. Flynn, Jr.