LEESBURG, FL — Beacon College will confer honorary doctorates on a prominent international advocate from the United Arab Emirates and a former Florida legislator and his wife at its 29th Commencement Exercises Saturday, May 5 for their influential efforts on two continents to enhance the lot of children and young adults with learning differences and developmental disabilities.
Located in Leesburg, Fla., Beacon College is a nonprofit liberal arts school and America’s first college/university accredited to award bachelor’s degrees primarily to students with learning disabilities, ADHD, dyslexia, and other learning differences.
The candidates to receive the Doctor of Humane Letters are:
Sheikha Jameela bint Mohammed Al-Qasimi: As vice-president of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, Sharjah, and director general of the Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services, she has pioneered myriad programs for individuals with disabilities. Awards recognizing her groundbreaking advocacy for the disabled include the Award of Merit from The UAE Red Crescent honoring her local and regional special needs advocacy, the “Woman of the Year” Award from Datamatix, and the United Nations Development Program UAE Accolade for Distinguished Achievements in Humanitarian Services. Her Excellency holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from California State University, Chico.
The Gardiners: Andrew “Andy” Gardiner is senior vice President of external affairs and community relations at Orlando Health and a former Florida state senator. After rising to Senate president in 2015, he flexed his political muscle to champion inclusion, equality, and equal access for Floridians with “unique abilities” — an issue close to the heart of the father rearing his namesake son who has Down syndrome. While advocating multiple measures to boost economic opportunities for Floridians with disabilities, his crowning achievement was the expanded personal learning scholarship account that now bears his name: the Gardiner Scholarship Program. The measure created job options for people with unique abilities.
Camille Gardiner channeled her passion for improving the lives of Floridians with unique abilities by founding the Down Syndrome Foundation of Florida. She sits on the board of directors of an outfit that has disbursed more than $600,000 in scholarships for families to use for therapy, camps, tutoring, etc.
“We are indeed fortunate to be graced by honorary degree candidates whose work has benefited the lives of literally millions of people with disabilities, both internationally and here in the Sunshine state,” said Beacon President George J. Hagerty. “Her Excellency Sheikha Jameela has been an influential educator and advocate, not only in Sharjah and countries of the Middle East, but globally. Sen. Andy Gardiner and his wife, Camille, have shared a common pursuit — that of improving the quality of educational and life experiences for Floridians with disabilities. Each of our degree recipients embody the true character of civic leaders by virtue of their vision, perseverance, and humility.”
Honorary degrees are awarded by the Board of Trustees of Beacon College and will be conferred by the college president during Commencement Exercises at Lake Receptions in Mount Dora starting at 11 a.m. Recipients will deliver remarks of five to seven minutes — the school’s alternative to a Commencement speaker.
Founded in 1989, Beacon College is the first higher education institution accredited to award bachelor’s degrees primarily to students who learn differently. Ranked among the Top 10 Florida colleges or universities in 2016 by Bestcolleges.com, Beacon College is nationally recognized as a superior institution for accommodating and preparing students who learn differently to prosper in a global economy.