Former Independence resident Matthew Bolton and his spouse, Emily Welty, both members of an organization that last year was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, will be featured speakers during Graceland University's spring commencement ceremony Sunday morning in Lamoni, Iowa.
On Saturday, they will be recognized at a gathering in Independence.
Bolton, a Graceland alumus, and Welty are professors at Pace University in New York City and have worked with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN, a coalition of organizations from 100 countries that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year for its advocacy with the United Nations for a nuclear weapon ban treaty.
The couple will be at Independence's Stone Church Community of Christ at 2 p.m. Saturday, speaking about ICAN, the Nobel Prize, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and Welty's experience at a Vatican City conference where she had the opportunity to meet Pope Francis.
Bolton and Welty also will be recognized as the recipients of the Independence Humanitarian Award. They were unable to attend Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration when the award was announced and have since received the award.
The U.N. nuclear treaty was adopted in July, though the United States and several other countries did not participate in negotiating the treaty. Bolton worked with an ICAN team that advocated for victim assistance and environmental remediation provisions in the agreement. In November, Welty attended a Vatican City symposium of 400 clergy, diplomats, campaigners and Nobel laureates – “Prospects for a World Free from Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament.” The Vatican had been the first signature state to ratify the treaty.
“We're just eager to give them as much exposure and the issue as much exposure as we can,” said Sharon Hannah, a member of the Community of Christ organizing committee.
Bolton's family moved from Eastern Jackson County when he was 4 because of his father's work transfer with the Community of Christ. Bolton stayed in Great Britain until he was 17, then came back to attend church-affiliated Graceland. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in history and religion and later began working with a pair of humanitarian and development organizations – Outreach International, based in Independence, and Counterpart International. He and Welty met during an evening Spanish class at American University, where she was studying for a master’s degree and he had just returned from work in Spanish-speaking countries.
Bolton went on to earn master's and doctorate degrees from the London School of Economics and Political Science. While working with Outreach, Bolton was a regular guest columnist for The Examiner, writing about humanitarian efforts around the world.