October 07, 2011
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf gave the 2009 commencement address at UT.
Sirleaf with David A. Straz Jr., left, and UT President Ronald L. Vaughn at the 2009 commencement.
Clara Cassell ’13 was excited to hear she had received a full tuition scholarship to study at The University of Tampa, a continent away from her home in Liberia. Today, having heard the news that her president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was named a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Cassell was filled with pride.
“I think it’s awesome and a great accomplishment, aside from becoming the first female president democratically elected in an African state” said Cassell, a biology major.
Cassell’s scores on the Liberian national exam, as well as those on the SAT, qualified her for the scholarship named in honor of Sirleaf. Two years earlier, Sirleaf gave the 2009 commencement address and was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters at the University. David A. Straz Jr., chairman emeritus of the UT Board of Trustees who also serves as honorary consul to Liberia, was instrumental in securing Sirleaf’s visit.
Sirleaf was given the award for her “non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work," according to the Nobel Prize website.
“The University is delighted and proud to be associated with President Sirleaf,” said Linda Devine, vice president of operations and planning, who helped organize Sirleaf’s visit. Devine was impressed by Sirleaf’s interaction with everyone she came in contact with, giving of her attention and being fully present with everyone.
“She sets such a fine example, particularly for women around the globe with her commitment, compassion and persistence,” said Devine.
Prior to getting the scholarship in the spring of 2011, Cassell was studying architecture at a Liberian university because pursuing her real passion, medicine and cancer research, wasn’t an option in her home country. When she graduates from UT she hopes to go to medical school.
Sirleaf was the first woman to lead an African nation when she was elected president of Liberia in 2005. She is a leading promoter of peace, justice and democratic rule, and in 2007 was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Sirleaf shares the Nobel Peace Prize with Liberian Leymah Roberta Gbowee and Yemeni Tawakkul Karman.
Sirleaf's Video Address
Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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