Newswise — Babson College announces that Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will deliver the Commencement address to undergraduate students and graduate students during ceremonies on the Wellesley campus on Saturday, May 20, 2017.

President Sirleaf, a Nobel Laureate and the first female President of an African Nation, will receive the honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the college.

The undergraduate ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. and the graduate ceremony will take place at 2:30 p.m.

“We are honored to welcome Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, as our Commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient,” said Babson College President Kerry Healey. “President Sirleaf’s global leadership and historic election reflect an entrepreneurial spirit that resonates with our global Babson community and will serve to inspire our students as they seek to employ the transformative power of entrepreneurship and create positive change in the world.” 

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Nobel Laureate & First Female President of an African Nation

Internationally known as Africa’s “Iron Lady,” President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a leading promoter of peace, justice, and democratic rule. As Africa’s first democratically elected female president, she has led the war-torn nation of Liberia to restored freedom and peace while enacting economic, social, and political change. Her incredible journey was chronicled in her memoir, This Child Will Be Great.

Also seen as a global leader for women’s empowerment, President Johnson Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her work in securing women’s rights. Previously, in 2007, she was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom—the United States’ highest civil award—for her personal courage and unwavering commitment to expanding freedom and improving the lives of Africans.

In her efforts to bring justice to her people in Liberia, she has spent more than a year in jail at the hands of the military dictatorship of General Samuel Doe and had her life threatened by former President Charles Taylor. She campaigned relentlessly for Taylor’s removal from office and played an active and supportive role in the Transitional Government of Liberia as the country prepared for elections in October of 2005.

President Johnson Sirleaf was a presidential candidate in the 1997 Liberia general election where she finished second in the field of 13. Before that, she served for five years as Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa of the United Nations Development Program as Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and was the first woman to lead the United Nations Development Project for Africa.

In November 2005, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected President of Liberia and became the first woman to lead an African nation. She defeated popular world class soccer star George Weah with an impressive 59.4 percent of the vote.

In March of 2014, President Sirleaf would face her greatest challenge of her Presidency, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The outbreak would lead to 3,800 Liberians and more than 11,000 in the region losing their lives. The human and economic toll was the greatest, non-civil conflict that had ever faced Liberia. Her outreach to world leaders, especially the United States, led to a massive health mobilization effort with Liberia being the first regional nation to be declared “Ebola” free within 15 months.

Whether focusing on providing for the basic needs of her people, striving to end corruption, or advocating for women of all walks of life—not only in Liberia and Africa but across the globe—President Johnson Sirleaf lives a life of courage and vision. Her encouraging message of peace, human rights, economic empowerment, and moral leadership leaves audiences inspired to make a change in the world.

President Johnson Sirleaf grew up in Liberian capital of Monrovia where she married and had four sons, today nine grandchildren. She later earned an accounting degree from the Madison College of Business and a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in the United States. 

About Babson College

Babson College is the educator, convener, and thought leader for Entrepreneurship of All Kinds®. The top-ranked college for entrepreneurship education, Babson is a dynamic living and learning laboratory where students, faculty, and staff work together to address the real-world problems of business and society. We prepare the entrepreneurial leaders our world needs most: those with strong functional knowledge and the skills and vision to navigate change, accommodate ambiguity, surmount complexity, and motivate teams in a common purpose to make a difference in the world, and have an impact on organizations of all sizes and types. As we have for nearly a half-century, Babson continues to advance Entrepreneurial Thought & Action® as the most positive force on the planet for generating sustainable economic and social value.