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Former State Rep. Roberta Willis  on Wednesday, May 17 at the Capitol. Photo submitted

Willis honored for lead in education

HARTFORD —A large group gathered on a busy day in the Connecticut Capitol to praise former State Rep. Roberta Willis’ legislative and leadership accomplishments on behalf of higher education in Connecticut.

Willis received the 2023 Connecticut Higher Education Excellence Award presented by the New England Board of Higher Education on Wednesday, May 17.

Willis, a Democrat, retired in 2017 from the Connecticut General Assembly, after having served for 16 years as the representative from the 64th House District.

During her tenure, she was the House Chairman of Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee and was co-chair of the Higher Education Appropriations subcommittee from 2002 to 2016.

During that time, Willis also served on the New England Board of Higher Education. The Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education praised her as a “tireless advocate” for students, who fought to protect and expand state scholarship funds, and the need for capital investments to improve college campuses. 

Her legislative and leadership work include passing a “Dreamers” bill for in-state tuition, permitting students without immigration documentation to attend state colleges at in-state tuition prices, supporting the early development of high tech-advanced manufacturing at Connecticut community colleges, and supporting the expansion of the University of Connecticut Health Center and medical school.

Before her retirement, in a surprise move, the legislature voted unanimously to rename the Governor’s Scholarship Program, the Roberta B. Willis Scholarship Program, in her honor. The program provides financial aid to tens of thousands of Connecticut students attending public and private colleges.

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