Kennedy Owiti Odede will be the keynote speaker and receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at the University of Hartford’s Undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 15. Odede is an internationally recognized social entrepreneur, a New York Times best-selling author, and the co-founder of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), which combats extreme poverty and gender inequality by linking free schools for girls to a set of high-value, holistic community services for all.
A former street child who lived most of his life in Kibera, a neighborhood in Nairobi, Kenya and one of Africa’s largest slums, Odede founded SHOFCO with savings from his $1-per-day factory job. SHOFCO’s programs collectively served more than 76,000 individuals in 2015. Its core initiatives are education, health, community empowerment, and water and sanitation. The organization is scaling across Kenya’s slums, currently focused on the Kibera and Mathare slums.
Although he had never attended formal school, Odede received a full scholarship to Wesleyan University. He graduated in 2012 with honors in sociology, and was the commencement speaker. He was awarded the 2010 Echoing Green Fellowship, which is given to the world’s top emerging social entrepreneurs. He won the 2010 Dell Social Innovation Competition, and is a recipient of the Mohammed Ali Humanitarian Award and the Applause Africa Humanitarian of the Year Award.
He was named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30: Social Entrepreneurs in 2014, and is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative. He is also the cochair of the United Nations Youth Panel for the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity.
The New York Times, CNN, and Project Syndicate have published his opinion articles on urban poverty. President Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, and The New York Times columnists David Brooks and Nicholas Kristof have featured his works. Kristof’s multiplatform work for Half the Sky Movement to put an end to oppression of women and children worldwide has also featured Odede.
Odede and his wife, Jessica Posner, recently released their New York Times best-selling memoir titled Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum.
Donna Randall, PhD, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters and serve as speaker at the University’s Graduate Commencement Speaker on Saturday, May 14. Randall has been the chief executive officer of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California since July 2014. Through research and education programs, the institute seeks to prevent cancer and to reduce the burden of cancer where it cannot yet be prevented.
Previously, Randall served as chancellor of Albion College (2013–14) and as its 15th president (2007–13). She served as provost at the University of Hartford for seven years (2000–07), while serving as acting dean for the Hartford College for Women for three of those years. Prior to that, she was dean and professor of management at the Fogelman College of Business and Economics at the University of Memphis in Tennessee.
Her earlier academic background includes chair and faculty in the Department of Management and Systems at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, and visiting professor at University College in Dublin, Ireland.
Randall has served on more than 15 corporate, community, and nonprofit boards, and has been appointed to numerous national advisory committees, including the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities Tax Policy Committee, the Council for Independent Colleges Campaign for the Liberal Arts and Liberal Arts Colleges, and American Council on Education’s Commission on Women in Higher Education. She has served on editorial boards, and her writings on higher education issues, business ethics and malfeasance, women in toxic work environments, and organizational commitment have been published extensively.
A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Randall holds an MA and PhD in sociology and an MBA from Washington State University, and a BA in sociology from Drake University. Notably, she holds certificates from Harvard University’s Institute for Educational Management for Senior Executive Leadership, and the Harvard Seminar for New Presidents.