Louise M. Slaughter, a 12-term member of Congress known widely for her success in promoting job creation, attracting economic development, and supporting health care innovations for Upstate New York, will deliver the commencement address for the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering at the University of Rochester on Sunday, May 17.
At the commencement ceremony, the congresswoman will be presented with the George Eastman Medal, which recognizes individuals who, through their outstanding achievement and dedicated service, embody the high ideals for which the University stands. The medal was named in honor of Eastman, one of the University's great benefactors and the founder of Eastman Kodak Company.
Now the chair of the House Committee on Rules—and the first woman to hold that influential post—Slaughter's achievements place her in the top echelon of Democratic leaders in the nation's capital.
"I can think of few persons who have provided more outstanding leadership for the revitalization of Upstate New York than Louise Slaughter. She has been indefatigable in areas as diverse as strengthening cities like Rochester, addressing the critical health care issues of our times, fighting discrimination, supporting the arts, and working to ensure a brighter future for the next generation," said University President Joel Seligman. "She is an extraordinary leader with the wisdom, insight, and expertise to bring people together to tackle and solve problems of enormous complexity."
To an audience of graduates and their families, a message from an elected official of Slaughter's reputation has great significance, said Dean of the College Richard Feldman.
"Louise Slaughter's distinguished career in public service speaks to young people who want to trust their leaders," said Feldman. "Our students know that a career dedicated to others or to a cause is an opportunity. At this stage in their lives, they are hungry for a challenge."
Slaughter's legislative efforts to improve health care are an outgrowth of her knowledge of science and her education as a microbiologist. For over a decade, she championed a landmark bill, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, to protect Americans from discrimination by employers and insurance companies based on their genetic information. It was signed into law last year and was hailed as "the first civil rights legislation for the 21st Century."
From her early days in the House, Slaughter fought for such initiatives as increased health funding for breast cancer research at the National Institutes of Health, and for the inclusion of women and minorities in all federal medical trials.
Her sponsorship of legislation has advanced support for the arts, women's rights, historic preservation, and homeland security. In her sprawling 28th Congressional District from Rochester to Buffalo and Niagara Falls, Slaughter has brought meaningful attention to such important issues as U.S. border protections, urban redevelopment, and preservation along the Lake Ontario shoreline. Earlier this year, the congresswoman founded and now chairs the bipartisan Upstate New York Caucus, joined by all of her colleagues representing upstate districts, to address issues facing Upstate New York and collectively work to revive the regional economy and create good-paying jobs.
Slaughter was elected to Congress in 1986 after serving in the New York State Assembly (1982-86) and the Monroe County Legislature (1976-79). She also was regional coordinator to then-Secretary of State Mario Cuomo (1976-78) and then-Lt. Gov. Mario Cuomo (1979-82).
She holds a bachelor of science degree in microbiology and a master of science degree in public health from the University of Kentucky. A native of Harlan County, Ky., the congresswoman has lived most of her life in Rochester's suburb of Fairport.