The Most Honorable Portia Lucretia Simpson Miller O.N., B.A. will keynote the Union Institute & University National Commencement on Saturday, October 28, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The former Jamaica Prime Minister is a 1997 graduate of Union Institute & University. Ms. Simpson Miller served as Jamaica’s prime minister from March 2006 to September 2007, and again from January 2012 to March 2016. She retired in 2017, after serving as the leader of Jamaica’s opposition party (People’s National Party).
She, like so many Union alumni and students pursued her education against all odds.
“We are deeply privileged to welcome Ms. Portia Simpson Miller to help celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates at National Commencement,” said Roger H. Sublett, president of Union Institute & University. “She is truly a global ambassador who exemplifies the university’s mission, vision, and values in her words and deeds. She, like so many Union alumni and students, pursued her education against all odds in order to engage, enlighten, and empower those she serves.”
Ms. Simpson Miller says that she chose to study at Union Institute & University to broaden her knowledge base and solidify her academic credentials, which became necessary to advance in a political career that began while she was still in high school.
“It did not matter that I had served my apprenticeship in the intensive workshop of politics and government and had been schooled in the university of life,” she told graduates at UI&U’s 2001 Florida Commencement, where she received the university’s honorary doctorate for her exemplary efforts to improve the quality of life for all Jamaican citizens. “It did not matter that I was routinely called upon to represent my country at conferences all over the world. The absence of a college degree remained an issue in my life.”
“The courage it takes to return to college while working and raising families is the cornerstone of Union’s existence,” said Roger H. Sublett, president of Union Institute & University. “Portia is a living example of where a college degree can take a person. She rose from humble beginnings to become the first female prime minister of Jamaica.”
Not only did she want to ensure that people would not question her intellectual ability, Mrs. Simpson Miller was also motivated to complete her degree to prove something to herself and her constituents, especially to the youth of Jamaica. “Anything you make up your mind to do, you can achieve,” she said. “When you have the power that comes with knowledge, you can use it for the advancement of people’s lives. I will never forget my experience at Union Institute & University because they assisted me in continuing to make a difference.”
Despite her demanding schedule and extensive responsibilities throughout the years since her graduation, she has maintained her friendship with the faculty and staff at Union.
Angela Byles, Florida Academic Center Associate Executive Director, remembers meeting Simpson Miller in 1994 when she enrolled at Union’s Florida Academic Center.
“It was an honor to meet Ms. Simpson Miller for the first time in 1994 when she visited the Florida Center to meet with the Dean. I was struck by how humble she was and easy to talk to. At that time, her portfolio was Minister of Labour and Welfare in Jamaica.” said Byles.
“There are so many qualities that I admire in The Most Honorable Portia Simpson Miller, or – ‘Sista P’(sister) P’ as she is affectionately called. She has a deep love for her country and its people. She has the ability to connect with people from all walks of life. She fought for the equality of women and it is well known that she has been a champion for the poor. She has spent more than 40 years in direct service to her people and her country
Ms. Simpson Miller’s ascension to Jamaica’s highest political office came after having served for 17 years as a Cabinet Minister with portfolio responsibility for Labor, Social Security and Sport; Tourism, Entertainment and Sport; and Local Government, Community Development and Sport; in addition to Women’s Affairs.
Ms. Simpson Miller has received several local and international awards and accolades, including:
- In March 2007, she was awarded the International Olympic Committee’s World Women and Sport Trophy for outstanding dedication to women in Jamaican Sports – both athletes and administrators.
- In 2009, she received the Distinguished Award for her dedication and commitment to urban renewal and community development from the Mayor of the City of Miami.
- She received the Bureau of Women’s Affairs Award for outstanding contribution to the advancement of women’s affairs in Jamaica.
- She was inducted into the International Women’s Forum (IWF) Hall of Fame in recognition of the “incredible impact that women of courage, creativity, and passion have made towards improving society, inspiring others, and building better leadership in the world.”
- In 2012, Time Magazine named her among its “100 Most Influential Persons in the World.”
Mrs. Simpson Miller holds a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration from Union Institute & University. She also completed the Executive Program for Leaders in Development at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. In 2001, Prime Minister Simpson Miller was awarded Union Institute & University’s highest honor, the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters: Honoris Causa, in recognition of her achievements and commitment to transform lives and communities. She holds an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service from the Northern Caribbean University, and an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws (LLD) from the University of the West Indies, Jamaica.