The honorable U.S. Rep. L. Tammy Duckworth will serve as the keynote speaker for the 170th ICO Commencement Ceremony to be held at 11:00 a.m., May 18, at Rockefeller Chapel. Duckworth will receive the honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, during the ceremony.
“Not only is Rep. Duckworth a distinguished member of Congress, she is a national hero and an amazing role model for our doctoral candidates,” said ICO President Dr. Arol Augsburger.
Duckworth is an Iraq War veteran and former Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs. She was one of the first women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom when she was deployed to Iraq in 2004 as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot for the Illinois Army National Guard. Duckworth lost her legs and partial use of her right arm when her helicopter was hit by an RPG on Nov. 12, 2004. She was wearing polycarbonate lenses under her visor that protected her eyesight and credits Dr. Michelle Jurkovic, an ICO alum, with saving her vision during the explosion. She was awarded a Purple Heart for her combat injuries.
Following her recovery, Duckworth became Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. In Illinois, she worked to create a tax credit for employers who hired veterans, established the first 24/7 crisis hotline for veterans in the nation, and developed innovative programs to improve veterans' access to housing and health care.
In 2009, President Obama appointed Duckworth to be Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs. At the VA, Duckworth led an initiative to end homelessness among veterans. She was elected to Congress in 2012.