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Philippine Leader Receives Honorary Degree

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Philippine Leader Receives Honorary Degree

Citing her courageous leadership and commitment to economic and social reform, Fordham University conferred an honorary doctorate of laws upon Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, president of the Philippines, during a ceremony in the McNally Amphitheater at the School of Law on May 21.

“Those who are honoring me with this degree today led me as though by hand to the White House lawn,” said President Macapagal-Arroyo, referring to her Jesuit education and a recent visit with President George W. Bush. “I can speak of the value of a Jesuit degree…Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam, For the Greater Glory of God; Homo Pro Aliis, a person for others. These ideals are ever so relevant to the responsibility entrusted to me as president of my country, to improve the lives of my countrymen, to ensure their safety and to realize their collective potential to become a strong nation.”

Macapagal-Arroyo’s award had a special distinction. Thirty-eight years ago, she accompanied her father, the late Philippine President Diosdado Macapagal, when he received an honorary doctorate of laws on Oct. 9, 1964, on Fordham’s Rose Hill campus.

“It is a personal pleasure and an institutional pleasure to welcome the president of the Philippines back to Fordham,” said the Rev. Joseph A. O'Hare, S.J., who commended Macapagal-Arroyo for her commitment to social justice and her fight to eradicate poverty in the Philippines.

For Father O'Hare, conferring this last degree as University president was especially significant because of his personal ties to the Philippines, where he spent many years studying and teaching. Today, three of his former students serve as presidents of Jesuit universities in the country, and several others hold influential posts in the Philippine government.

“Father O’Hare is a Filipino at heart,” said Macapagal-Arroyo during her remarks. “The country has reaped well from the seeds of excellence he sowed.”

Macapagal-Arroyo also described her ongoing efforts to end terrorism and poverty in her country. She emphasized the importance of building alliances with other countries through diplomacy and acting as an ambassador for business and investment in the Philippines to meet those goals.

Prior to entering politics, Macapagal-Arroyo was a tenured economics professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, where Father O'Hare taught just prior to her arrival. In 1987, she joined President Corazon Aquino's administration as an assistant secretary to the undersecretary of social welfare and development. In 1992, she was elected to the Senate, where she authored 55 laws on economic and social reform. In 1998, she was elected vice president with almost 13 million votes, the most cast for this position in Philippine history.

—Michele Snipe

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Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, president of the Philippines

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Father O’Hare confers an honorary doctorate of laws upon President Macapagal-Arroyo, citing her courageous leadership and commitment to economic and social reform.

Photos: Peter Freed

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