On September 19, 2008, Bennington College faculty member Mac Maharaj received the prestigious Global Award for Outstanding Contribution to Human Rights from Priyadashni Academy in Mumbai, India. The Academy, founded in 1985 to promote international cultural exchange, education, and a spirit of public service, established the Global Awards to acknowledge the contributions of national and global leaders whose service to humanity has had a significant impact on the world. Nanik Rupani, chairman and founder of the Priyadashni Academy, aimed with the Global Awards to create “India’s equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize.”
Maharaj was a member of Nelson Mandela's inner circle during the fight for a free South Africa. At 29 years old Maharaj was detained for his political activities and brutally tortured for months. He was sentenced to 12 years on the notorious Robben Island where he and Nelson Mandela met and formed a lifelong partnership and friendship. Eventually, he would smuggle Mandela’s autobiography out of prison, going on to design and lead Operation Vula, an innovative military offensive that drastically altered the landscape and effectiveness of ANC operations. Following Mandela’s election as President in 1994, Maharaj served as free South Africa’s first cabinet Minister of Transport.
Maharaj joined the Bennington faculty in the fall 2005.