Lagos, who has led Chile since his election in January 2000, will discuss issues confronting Chile and the rest of Latin America in his speech 4 p.m. in the Morehead Lounge of the Morehead Planetarium. The speech is free and open to the public.
Many members of the University community lauded the choice of Lagos as the recipient of an honorary degree.
"He is one of the most courageous political leaders in the struggle for democracy and social justice," said Evelyn Huber, director of the Institute of Latin American Studies.
Lagos, who received his doctorate in economics from Duke University, opposed the dictatorial rule of General Augusto Pinochet, who controlled Chile from 1973 until 1990. As Chile's first socialist president since before the 1973 coup, Lagos has been a major player in bringing democracy back to Chile.
Lagos has close ties to UNC, having spent time on the faculty as a visiting professor of Latin American studies from 1973 until 1975, during the first and most brutal phase of the military coup in Chile led by Pinochet. He returned to UNC in 1979 to coordinate a conference about Chile's political and economic state.
But Lagos' connection to UNC is more than personal -- his country also hosts the site for the Southern Observatory for Astrophysical Research, an international observatory used and partially financed by UNC.
"The Chilean government has always treated astronomy as a priority," said physics Professor Wayne Christiansen.
Lagos also will receive an honorary degree from the University today. Honorary degrees are traditionally awarded at the commencement after each school year. Potential recipients are nominated each year by faculty members and voted upon by the six-person Honorary Degrees and Special Awards Committee of the Faculty Council.
Lagos originally was offered an honorary degree in 2000 and again this year, but he was unable to attend the May commencement exercises in 2000 or 2001 due to national addresses scheduled for the same weekend.