U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War Veteran, Purple Heart recipient and former
assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans who was among the first handful
of Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom, will speak at
Harper College’s commencement ceremony this spring.
Harper College’s 54th Commencement Ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, May
21, at the Pavilion behind Building D. The ceremony includes fall 2021 graduates and
candidates for spring and summer 2022 graduation.
Duckworth has been a strong advocate for Harper and higher education. The college
has worked closely with Duckworth on her Community College to Career Fund in Higher
Education Act (CC2C), which builds off of Harper’s successful public-private partnerships
such as the Zurich Insurance apprenticeship program that trains workers for jobs in
high-skill industries like advanced manufacturing, health care and cybersecurity.
“Senator Duckworth has long been a valuable partner and advocate of the Harper College
community,” said Dr. Avis Proctor, president. “I am thrilled she will be with us at
Commencement to inspire our graduates as they mark this momentous milestone and embark
on an important new chapter in their lives.”
Duckworth served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years before retiring at the rank of
lieutenant colonel in 2014. She was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016 after representing
Illinois’s Eighth Congressional District (which includes part of Harper’s district)
in the U.S. House of Representatives for two terms.
In 2004, Duckworth was deployed to Iraq as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot for the Illinois
Army National Guard. On November 12, 2004, her helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled
grenade and she lost her legs and partial use of her right arm. Senator Duckworth
spent the next year recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where she quickly
became an advocate for her fellow soldiers. After she recovered, she became Director
of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs where she helped create a tax credit
for employers that hire veterans, established a first-in-the-nation 24/7 veterans
crisis hotline and developed innovative programs to improve veterans’ access to housing
and health care.
In 2009, President Obama appointed Duckworth as an assistant secretary of Veterans
Affairs, where she coordinated a joint initiative with the U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development to help end veteran homelessness, worked to address the unique
challenges faced by female as well as Native American veterans and created the Office
of Online Communications to improve the VA’s accessibility, especially among young
Duckworth is fluent in Thai and Indonesian. She attended college at the University
of Hawaii and earned a Master of Arts in International Affairs from the George Washington
University. After graduation, she moved to Illinois and began pursuing a Ph.D. in
Political Science at Northern Illinois University.
Duckworth and her husband, Bryan, are the proud parents of two daughters, Abigail
Read Duckworth’s full bio and learn more about Harper’s Commencement ceremony.