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A 2010 promotional shot of Oprah Winfrey for the Oprah Winfrey Network. - Provided courtesy of Discovery

Oprah Winfrey receives honorary doctorate in South Africa

06/24/2011 by Olivia Allin

Oprah Winfrey received an honorary doctorate degree on Friday from a South African university that was once subjected to controversy after a racist student video went viral.

The media mogul was awarded an honorary doctorate in education from the University of the Free State. In 2007, four white students spurred national fury after making a video that showed five black workers on their hands and knees eating a stew that appeared to have been urinated on. The video expressed opposition to integrating the historically white university.

The university's first black rector, Jonathan Jansen, who was appointed in 2009, has worked to reunite the divided campus. Winfrey congratulated the institution for its efforts at reconciliation, the Associated Press reports.

"What has happened here at Free State in terms of racial reconciliation, of peace, of harmony, of one heart understanding and opening itself to another heart, is nothing short of a miracle," Winfrey said. "It is truly what the new South Africa is all about."

Winfrey also addressed the honor on Twitter writing, "Free State that was a profoundly awesome experience. Thanks from the newly Dr'd Winfrey."

The students, who were dubbed the "Reitz Four," after the now-closed residence hall where they resided, apologized and were forgiven by the women in the video. Winfrey invited the five workers on stage and praised them for their spirit of forgiveness.

Winfrey said that she had approached Jansen after reading about his work and accepted the invitation to speak to students. She was moved to tears during the ceremony.

Previous recipients of Free State honorary degrees include anti-apartheid icons Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The mogul has spent a lot of time in South Africa, where she opened a school for young women in 2007. The school's first class recently graduated.

Winfrey's school also endured scandal after a dormitory supervisor was accused of trying to kiss and fondle students. The supervisor was acquitted of sexual assault charges last year.

Winfrey's talk show ended last month after 25-years on the air. The "Oprah Winfrey Show" had been the top-rated talk show for more than two decades and aired in 145 countries worldwide.

Winfrey launched the Oprah Winfrey Network on January 1, 2011. OWN replaced the Discovery Health network and is available in more than 80 million homes. The network was first announced three years ago as a venture between Winfrey's HARPO production company and Discovery Communications.

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