The Fordham University, one of the prestigious educational institutions in the United States of America, on Saturday, conferred an honorary Doctor of Letters on the First Lady, Mrs. Lordina Mahama, in recognition of her prominent efforts to aid the most vulnerable citizens and helping women and girls to advance in the Ghanaian society.
Rev. Fr. Joseph Mcshane, President of Fordham University, conferred the degree on her at the 170th Commencement of the institution at Fordham, New York.
A citation presented to the First Lady, said in part, “For her many efforts to help the disadvantaged and create opportunities for women and girls, we, the President and Trustees of Fordham University, in solemn convocation assembled and in accord with the chartered authority bestowed on us by the Regents of the University of the State of New York, declare Mrs. Lordina Dramani Mahama Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. That she may enjoy all rights and privileges of this, our highest honour, we have issued these letters patent under our hand and the corporate seal of the University on this, the 16th day of May in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Fifteen”.
It also mentioned her passion for business and entrepreneurship, apart from vigorous campaigns to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV and AIDS.
Earlier, Rev. Fr. Patrick Ryan, Professor of Religion and Society at the university, presented the diploma, caps, gowns and academic hood to the First Lady.
A total of 4,800 others were presented with degrees at the ceremony, which attracted a record gathering, including chiefs, Ghana’s Ambassador to the United States, General Joseph Henry Smith and former Senator Chuck Schumer.
Giving the Commencement Address, the First Lady, who was the keynote speaker, dedicated her award to the hardworking women and the children of Ghana.
She said the recognition would motivate her and her organisation, the Lordina Foundation, to go out and do more in the society.
“As we disperse from here, we must define the relationship we want to have with our communities and our people. Many of us will find the definition of ourselves in the careers we choose as scientists, social workers, religious leaders, etc,” the First Lady stated.
To this end, she charged the graduating class to make conscious efforts to lend a hand to others, especially those who were less privileged than them.
Mrs. Mahama, who presented a picture of some of the philanthropic works by her foundation at the Gambaga Witches Camp and other orphanages to provide various forms of humanitarian assistance, said that it was not good that in many parts of Africa, failure and misfortune were attributed to evil forces such as witchcraft.
“From unemployment, poverty, disease, barrenness, inability to find a spouse, mental illness, right to the ultimate, which is death, all these are attributed to supernatural manipulation of witches,”she said, adding that “the camp reflected a classic example of society’s ignorance and loss of humanity towards others”.
Recounting the success of her campaign against the spread of HIV and the prevention of cervical and breast cancers, the First Lady remarked, “there is joy in looking into the beautiful eyes of an HIV-free baby born to an HIV positive mother. The stare you get from the little innocent eyes is enough reward for all our efforts”.
She said “The many women who avoid breast and cervical cancers every year through our screening programmes, awareness and advocacy and our championing of anti-HPV vaccines for girls, is a reward greater than joy”, and described her interaction with the elderly women at the Gambaga Camp as her most highly prized memory.
Fordham University was founded in 1841 by Archbishop John Hughes as a Jesuit Catholic University.