Hodges University has awarded an Honorary Doctor of Public Service degree to alumnae Donna Marie Hamilton Ross. She graduated in June 2012, with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration (MPA), and also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Hodges University.
“As soon as she was done with her MPA, she informed me that she would be enrolling in a doctoral program,” explains Dr. Peter Karastamatis, professor in the Johnson School of Business at Hodges. “Unfortunately, Ms. Ross has been suffering from some serious health issues which forced her to put her plans to continue her education and earn her doctorate on hold, which bothered me very much.
“So many people are conferred with honorary doctorates, and none that I could think of, despite their celebrity or ability to donate charitable sums were any more deserving than Donna Marie Hamilton Ross. I spoke with Dr. Jeanette Brock, Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs, to see if Donna Marie was a candidate for an honorary doctorate. Dr. Brock informed me that Hodges University has the ability to bestow individuals with honorary doctorates, but that the approval of the academic committee and of the Board of Trustees must first be obtained. Approval was resoundingly granted!”
“I said to Dr. Karastamatis, ‘if you can earn a doctorate, so can I,’” said Dr. Hamilton Ross. “I truly love the process of academia, reading, writing, learning, thinking and speaking, and I am extremely grateful for this incredible honor.”
“Hodges University is and has always been a haven for many that have struggled to educate themselves and earn their degree,” said Karastamatis. “Donna Marie will provide a shining beacon for those students who struggle against the odds to achieve higher education; to better themselves, their families and their communities.”
Originally from Jamaica, Dr. Hamilton Ross served as a volunteer and advocate with Jamaica AIDS Support. In 2003 she was elected as Chairperson for Prevention, Education and Support Services for the Jamaica National AIDS Regional Committee. In 2007 she was awarded the National Award for Volunteerism in the field of AIDS Education and Support.
In order to further the impact she could have in the area of AIDS awareness and prevention, she felt the need to better educate herself as well as develop more meaningful credentials in the areas that would enable her to make a greater impact against the disease. She moved to Ft. Myers and attended Hodges University to pursue her Bachelor’s and then Master’s degrees. While working to complete her undergraduate degree, she also found time to volunteer many hours each week with the local Island Coast AIDS Network and with SWFAS (Southwest Florida Addiction Services).
This is only the seventh time in the history of the university that it has bestowed an honorary doctorate degree. Other recipients include the institution’s founding Trustee and Chairman of the Board Doug Devaux, Ann Bowden, Oscar-winning narrator Peter Thomas, namesakes Earl and Thelma Hodges, and Lee County activist Veronica Shoemaker.