Students and staff of Marquette University reflect on Mandela's life

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The body of Nelson Mandela will lie in state in Pretoria for three days next week before being buried in a state funeral on Sunday, December 15th. The former president of South Africa died Thursday, December 5th at the age of 95.

The world continues to reel after learning of the passing of the prestigious leader, including many people in Milwaukee.

Marquette University faculty and students are mourning the loss of Mandela. Senior Morgan Mekertichian studied abroad in South Africa for several months last spring.

"I started crying," said Mekertichian. "He is just this star in South Africa in the sense that everyone relates things back to him in the most positive ways."

Mekertichian says although she never met Mandela, retracing his footsteps around Capetown made her feel a personal connection to him. She toured the prison where Mandela spent several years and says it left her with a sense of awe for the man he became.

"He left prison stronger, more positive and more influential," said Mekertichian. "It didn't harden him in a way that I think most people think of prison systems in general."

Marquette Associate Professor Chima Korieh said leaders around the world can learn from Mandela's example.

"This possibility that even if you disagree with people on the other side of the aisle you can still walk together for the betterment of the society," said Koreih.

Mandela's life holds lessons for millions, even those who are not global leaders. Mekertichian says although she isn't sure what her future holds, she will follow the light of Mandela's life to help find her own path.

"I just think the idea of just connecting to the community and the people around you and then putting yourself into it and making it better because of it, so I think that's something that he really did," said Mekertichian.

President Obama has government and public buildings to fly their flags at half-staff through sunset on Monday in Nelson Mandela's honor.