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Honorary Degree Recipients

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Commencement Speakers

u.s. representative mia bourdeau love '97: doctor of laws (Speaker, Sunday, May 21)

Mia LoveRep. Mia Love ’97 is a proud graduate of the University of Hartford’s Hartt School. With her music theatre degree, she starred in multiple plays and had the opportunity to take her role in Smokey Joe’s Cafe to Broadway. But her life took a very different direction after she met and married her husband, Jason, and moved to Utah. They have three children.

Love was raised by parents who emigrated from Haiti and who worked hard to earn a living. Her childhood taught her the value of hard work and service. When she first arrived at the University of Hartford, her father told her: “Mia, your mother and I never took a handout. You will not be a burden to society. You will give back.”

After moving to Utah, she began a career of giving back by serving two terms on the Saratoga Springs city council, and later as mayor. Under her leadership, the city successfully navigated a 1,700 percent population growth.

Love is best known for her conservative positions on limited government, increased citizen liberties, and fewer restraints on businesses. She believes the best thing she can do in Congress is urge the federal government to stay out of the way of business and out of the lives of citizens.

She felt so deeply about these convictions that she ran for Congress in 2012 and again in 2014, when she was victorious. In her freshman session of Congress, Love has been very busy keeping the promises she made to her constituents in Utah’s 4th District by voting to foster local control in all aspects of government.

She currently serves on the House Financial Services Committee as well as on three subcommittees: Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, Monetary Policy and Trade, and Terrorism and Illicit Finance.

Based on her votes, Love has twice been honored to accept the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Spirit of Enterprise Award, the American Conservative Union’s Award for Conservative Excellence, the IFDA’s Thomas Jefferson Award, and the Susan B. Anthony List’s Marilyn Musgrave Defender of Life award.

u.s. representative richard e. neal: doctor of laws (Speaker, Saturday, May 20)

Richard NealRep. Richard E. Neal was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1988. Since that time, he has proven to be a champion for the constituencies he serves in western and central Massachusetts.

A native of Springfield, Massachusetts, Neal began his career in public service in 1973 as an assistant to Springfield Mayor William C. Sullivan. In 1977, he was elected to the Springfield City Council and served as president of the council in 1979. He was elected mayor of the City of Springfield and held that position from 1984 to 1988.

Neal is the ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee in the House. He is the dean of both the Massachusetts delegation and the New England Congressional Delegation. He is an at-large whip for the House Democrats and a co-chair of the New England Congressional Caucus, where he advocates for the unique regional interests of the six New England states. Neal is also the Democratic leader of the Friends of Ireland Caucus. He is a longtime lecturer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a national trustee of the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston.

Neal earned a Master of Public Administration from the University of Hartford’s Barney School of Business in 1976. He received his undergraduate degree in political science from American International College in Springfield, Mass.

Neal has been granted many honorary degrees, including one from Mount Holyoke College, where he is a former trustee.

Other Honorary Degree Recipients

Richard J. Gilfillan, MD: Doctor of Humane Letters (Saturday, May 20)

Richard GilfillanDr. Richard J. “Rick” Gilfillan is president and chief executive officer of Trinity Health, the $16.3 billion Catholic health system that serves communities in 22 states with 93 hospitals, as well as 120 continuing care programs that include PACE, senior living facilities, and home care and hospice services. Trinity Health’s continuing care programs provide nearly
2.5 million visits annually.

For more than 30 years, Gilfillan has built successful organizations in the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors to deliver better outcomes for people and communities. As the first director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), he launched the center in 2010 and worked quickly with payers and providers to develop innovative models for improving patient care and reducing costs.

Prior to his appointment at CMMI, Gilfillan was president and CEO of Geisinger Health Plan and executive vice president of insurance operations for Geisinger Health System, a large integrated health system in Pennsylvania. Previously, he was the senior vice president for national network management at Coventry Health Care. He also held earlier executive positions at Independence Blue Cross.

Gilfillan began his career as a family medicine physician and later became a medical director and a chief medical officer. He earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from Georgetown University and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

OBIE MCKENZIE, Doctor of Commercial Science (saturday, May 20)

Obie McKenzieObie McKenzie is a managing director at BlackRock, the largest institutional asset management firm in the United States. He graduated from Tennessee State University in 1967 and received his Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School in 1972. As a senior relationship manager for BlackRock, McKenzie is responsible for managing relationships with some of the largest pension funds in the United States, including the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, New York City Employees’ Retirement System, and the Federal Reserve Employee Benefits System.

In 2010, McKenzie received the Richard A. Lothrop Outstanding Achievement Award from the Association of Investment Management Sales Executives (AIMSE) in recognition of his outstanding achievements in the investment management industry and his community. In 2011, Black Enterprise magazine named him one of the 75 Most Powerful Blacks on Wall Street. In 2013, Money Management Intelli-gence named him Public Fund Marketer of the Year.

McKenzie has held positions as managing director at Merrill Lynch Investment Managers, executive director at UBS Asset Management, and managing director at Chase Investors. He is the founder of McKenzie & Company, a NASD registered broker dealer, and served as president from 1984 to 1987.

McKenzie has served as president of AIMSE, founding board member of the TOIGO Foundation, and associate advisor to the Texas Association of Public Employees Retirement Systems. He was also a founding board member of the National Association of Securities Professionals, where he received the Wall Street Hall of Fame Award in 2001. He was also a recipient of the Wall Street Award for Service to Children from the New York Mission Society in 2006. McKenzie serves on numerous boards, including New York Theological Seminary, Girls Who Invest, Tennessee State University Board of Trustees, Trinity Health-New England, and the Curtis D. Robinson Center for Health Equity.

McKenzie has been an expository Bible teacher for over 30 years. He is currently writing a book titled Bible Economics—Things I Wish I Had Known.

Robert h. forrester '66, Doctor of Humane Letters (sunday, may 21)

Bob ForresterRobert H. Forrester ’66 is an internationally recognized leader in the philanthropic and non-governmental sectors. His career as a senior executive of major organizations, and as the founder and chief executive officer of a leading international consulting firm specializing in philanthropy spans 47 years.  

In addition to his professional career, Forrester has served on the boards of numerous nonprofit organizations, and has helped in the founding of several organizations, including the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, the Discovery Center, and the Safe Water Network.

Forrester was a close friend and philanthropic advisor to Paul Newman. In 2005, Newman asked him to join Newman’s Own Foundation as its first president. Today, Forrester serves as president and chief executive officer of Newman’s Own Foundation, executive chairman of Newman’s Own, Inc., and manager of the company that owns all the intellectual property rights associated with Newman’s Own and Paul Newman personally.

Forrester previously served as founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Payne, Forrester & Associates, LLC (PFA), an international consulting firm providing counsel and support services to nonprofit and philanthropic organizations on issues of governance, planning, management, finance, strategic fund-raising, communications, and “financial capacity building.” PFA was a leader in developing the concept and practices of strategic fundraising, and served over 550 clients worldwide.

As chief development officer and member of the senior management committee of New York University, Forrester was responsible for all fundraising and related external relations for the university, overseeing the operations of over 25 colleges, institutes, and centers.  

Forrester also served as chief development officer and special assistant to the president of the University of Hartford. He is currently a University life regent.

In addition to his work with Newman’s Own, Forrester serves on the advisory board of Shining Hope for Communities, headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, and the Advisory Council of the United Nations Association of the United States of America.

Forrester holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Hartford’s College of Arts and Sciences and was a captain in the U.S. Army, serving in Vietnam.

JENNIFER SMITH TURNER, Doctor of HUMANE Letters (sunday, may 21)

Jennifer Smith TurnerJennifer Smith Turner is the retired chief executive of Girl Scouts of Connecticut, where she served as the inaugural chief executive officer of the organization created in 2007 from the merger of five Girl Scout councils.

She is president and chief executive officer of Smith & Associates LLC, a company that specializes in assisting organizations in achieving their strategic and operational potential. She is the former deputy commissioner for the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development and is credited with re-energizing the state’s industry cluster initiative and for bringing affordable housing to the forefront of the state’s economic agenda.

Turner served as president and chief executive officer of BerkleyCare Network and vice president of W.R. Berkley Corporation (WRBC) of Greenwich, Conn. Previously, she was a leading change agent at Aetna Life & Casualty, where for 10 years, she worked in a variety of executive level positions.

Turner worked for Travelers Insurance for 10 years in numerous management positions in the company’s property casualty and financial services operations. She interrupted her insurance career in the mid 1980s to serve the City of Hartford as director of personnel and then as assistant city manager.

Turner’s civic involvement also includes service on numerous boards. She was recently elected to the board of Newman’s Own Foundation, and is a past president of the board of the Hartford Stage Company.

Turner recently completed a 16-year term as a regent at the University of Hartford, where she served on many committees, including executive and strategic planning. Working closely with University President Walter Harrison, Turner spearheaded the effort to transform Hartford College for Women into an integral part of the University. Turner also established an endowed scholarship at the University to serve African-American students in financial need entering their second year of study.

A published poet, Turner’s first book, Perennial Secrets; Poetry & Prose, was published in 2003. Her second book, Lost and Found: Rhyming Verse Honoring African American Heroes, was published in 2006.

A native of Boston, Mass., Turner is a graduate of Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., and received her master’s degree from Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn.