Commencement Speaker - Former Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell
After 20 years of experience in public service, M. Jodi Rell became the ninth female governor in the United States in 2004, after succeeding Gov. John Rowland mid-term. She was Connecticut’s second woman governor and the first female Republican governor of the state.
Rell’s work in community associations led her to run for Connecticut’s state legislature in 1984. She won the seat as state representative for the 107th district and was reelected four times before becoming lieutenant governor in 1994. After entering the governor’s office, Rell made ethics in politics a priority. She signed legislation that created a new Ethics Commission and reformed campaign finance in the state. She is credited with stabilizing the state following a tumultuous administration, winning her the admiration and trust of Connecticut residents. She was awarded the Clean Elections M.V.P. Award by Common Cause, Public Campaign and Democracy Matters.
A pragmatic leader with a fiscally conservative approach to government, Rell pushed to make Connecticut more attractive to businesses and invested in childcare and transportation. In 2007, she enacted the Charter Oak Health Plan intended to bring affordable healthcare to uninsured adults. She also passed legislation that allowed same-sex couples to enter into civil unions.
Rell was elected for a second term in 2006. In 2008 she received the Dr. Nathan Douglas Award from the American Medical Association and is noted for her commitment to promoting stem-cell research. In 2009, she announced that she would not seek reelection.
Rell grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, and attended Dominion University for several years. She later attended Western Connecticut State University. For many years, she and her husband, Lou Rell, made Brookfield their home with their two children.