University of Hartford alumni U.S. Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts) will deliver the keynote addresses during the University’s Commencement Weekend. Love will speak at the Undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 21. Neal will speak at the Graduate Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 20. Both Love and Neal will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws during the ceremonies.
Mia Love (née Bourdeau) is a graduate of the University of Hartford’s The Hartt School, Class of 1997. She was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. to parents who emigrated from Haiti due to political repression. She says her parents taught her the value of hard work and service. Notably, when her parents brought her to UHart’s first-year orientation, she says 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 earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music Theatre, Love pursued a performance career, worked as a flight attendant, and moved to Utah to be closer to the Mormon faith to which she had converted after college. She married her husband Jason Love there and they have three children.
In Saratoga Springs, Utah Love began giving back by serving six years on the Saratoga Springs City Council followed by four years as mayor. Under her leadership, the city was able to successfully navigate a 1700% population growth.
Love ran for Congress unsuccessfully in 2012. She ran again in 2014, when she was victorious, and became the first Haitian American and the first black female Republican in Congress, as well as the first Black American to be elected to Congress from Utah. She was re-elected in 2016. Love is known for her positions on limited government, increased citizen liberties, and fewer restraints on businesses.
She is currently serving on the House Financial Services Committee, as well as the Financial Institutions, Monetary Policy, and Trade, and the Terrorism and Illicit Financing subcommittees. Based on her votes, she has twice accepted the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Spirit of Enterprise Award, as well as 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.
Richard Neal earned a Master of Public Administration from the University of Hartford’s Barney School of Business in 1976. He was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1988 and has won re-election in every term since. The 1st district includes western and central Massachusetts and is the state’s largest district in area, covering about one-third of the state.
Neal was born in Worcester, Mass. and raised in Springfield. Both of his parents died while he was a teenager so he and his younger sisters lived with his grandmother and aunt until their adult years. Neal earned an undergraduate degree in political science from American International College before enrolling at UHart. He and his wife Maureen have four children.
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.
In Congress, Neal is an influential figure in House economic policy. He is the ranking member of the powerful tax-writing Ways and Means Committee in the House and is dedicated to U.S.-Ireland relations. 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. Neal is a co-chairman of the New England Congressional Caucus, where he advocates for the unique regional interests of the six New England states. He is also the Democratic leader of the Friends of Ireland Caucus. He is a long-time lecturer at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and is a National Trustee of John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. Congressman Neal holds many honorary degrees, including one from Mount Holyoke College where he was formerly a Trustee.