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Elizabeth Horton Sheff to Address Graduates at University of Hartford’s Fall Commencement

Posted 12/03/2013
Posted by David Isgur

More than 185 graduating students are expected to take part in the University of Hartford’s Fall Commencement ceremony on Sunday, Dec. 8, starting at 2:30 p.m., in the Lincoln Theater on the University campus. Students and their guests will hear remarks from community activist Elizabeth Horton Sheff, who is best known for her landmark civil rights lawsuit to address inequities in the level of education provided in the Hartford public schools compared to surrounding suburbs.

Sheff, who recently earned her master’s degree from the University of Hartford, will be presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at the ceremony. University President Walter Harrison will preside over the ceremony.

Approximately 80 students will be recognized for earning their undergraduate degrees and another 110 will be honored for earning graduate degrees. The University's Fall Commencement ceremony was introduced in 1996 to provide a formal ceremony for undergraduate and graduate students who complete their degree requirements in September or January and cannot attend the University's traditional Commencement Weekend ceremonies in May.

The University of Hartford will provide a live webcast of the ceremony, which can be accessed at  For more information on Fall Commencement, please visit

Elizabeth Horton Sheff grew up in a housing project in Hartford, raised by a mother who gave her a healthy balance of love and discipline, and an understanding that everyone has a responsibility to make the world a better place.

Taking those words to heart, she has spent her life speaking out for the poor and marginalized, fighting for those in public housing and those with HIV/AIDS and working to increase food security for families.

She and 10 other families filed a historic desegregation lawsuit known as Sheff v. O’Neill that challenged inequities in the education provided in Hartford schools compared to surrounding towns. The long, arduous, court battle has begun to address inequality through new magnet schools and other education reforms in Connecticut.

She also served five terms on the Hartford city council, during which she promoted civic engagement, literacy, and community policing, and founded a program to support grandparents who are raising grandchildren.

Sheff, who recently earned a master’s degree from the University of Hartford, has won numerous community awards, including the University’s Regents’ Honor Award and the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame’s Notable Women of Influence Award.

She currently serves as the director of community service for the Community Renewal Team, a non-profit human services delivery agency, where she continues to carry out her mother’s lessons.