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University to Award Honorary Degrees During Commencement Weekend

Business and Community Leaders to be Recognized

The University will grant several honorary degrees during our 2017 Commencement ceremonies. Keynote speakers U.S. Reps. Mia Love ’97 and Richard Neal M’76 will be awarded honorary Doctors of Laws. (Read the story announcing these honors.

Richard J. Gilfillan, MD; Obie McKenzie; Robert H. Forrester ’66; and Jennifer Smith Turner will also be awarded honorary degrees during Commencement Weekend.

Richard GilfillanDr. Richard J. “Rick” Gilfillan will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the Graduate Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 20. 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. 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 McKenzieObie McKenzie will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science during the Graduate Commencement ceremony. 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 Intelligence 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 ForresterRobert H. Forrester ’66 will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the Undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 21. Forrester 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 TurnerJennifer Smith Turner will also be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the Undergraduate ceremony. She 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 inte-gral 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.