Honorary Degree Recipient
Doctor of Laws
Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, April 10, 2009
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa's first elected female president holds a master's degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She has courageously led her war-torn nation of Liberia to peace and self- determination through economic, social, and political change. Under her leadership, Liberia has made great strides, with an increase in school enrollment and the rebuilding of heath services, the reestablishment of basic security, and improved systems for good governance and economic management. Prior to being elected president, she had a career in banking and economic and financial management. She served as the Minister of Finance of Liberia, president of the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment, vice president of Citicorp's African Regional Office in Nairobi, and senior loan officer at the World Bank. In 1985, she ran for a seat in the Liberian Senate, and after speaking out against the brutal regime of Samuel Doe, she was incarcerated. She then fled to the United States where she served as vice president for Equator Bank and in 1992 she joined the United Nations Development Programme as assistant administrator and director of its Regional Bureau of Africa. During this period she held the rank of Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations. She is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including honorary degrees from Marquette University, Indiana University, and Brown University. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom by U.S. President George W. Bush on November 5, 2007.
Biographies are as-of time of award presentation.