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June 29, 2022 – West Hartford, CT  – University of Saint Joseph President Rhona Free was awarded the Elizabeth Gustin Basil Women’s Leadership Award by the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce at the Chamber’s Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards Dinner Monday evening June 27.

President Free is the first recipient of the Elizabeth Gustin Basil Women’s Leadership Award, which was created last year to honor the legacy of the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce’s first woman chairperson. This award recognizes a woman, who through her work, service, and/or philanthropy, has empowered women to advance in business or leadership roles. It also recognizes the award winner’s track record of mentorship, setting positive examples, or creating opportunities for the advancement of women.

Elizabeth Gustin Basil’s daughters, Marianne Basil Sawicki & Cynthia Basil Howard, were on hand to help present the award to Dr. Free.

Rhona C. Free became the ninth President of the University of Saint Joseph in July 2015. During her time at USJ she has guided the deliberations that led to the University’s decision to become fully-coeducational and from the resulting increase in enrollment has overseen the launch of many new graduate and undergraduate programs and the completion of facilities renovations and modernizations across campus.

In 2016, Dr. Free championed the creation of the Women’s Leadership Center (WLC) at the University of Saint Joseph. The WLC offers professional and executive education programs, supports research related to women’s leadership, and promotes mentorship and sponsorship for early and mid-career women in the corporate and non-profit sectors.

Dr. Free is Chair of the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges Board of Directors, a member of the Hartford Consortium for Higher Education Board of Directors, and a member of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Presidents’ Council; she is also a member of the Connecticut Science Center’s Board of Trustees and a Hartford Hospital Corporator.

Dr. Free came to USJ from Eastern Connecticut State University, where she served as vice president for academic affairs from 2007-2013 and provost from 2013-2015. She taught Economics at Eastern for 25 years before becoming an administrator.

In 2004, she was recognized as the Council for Advancement and Support of Education/Carnegie Foundation National Professor of the Year from Master’s Granting Institutions. Her research has focused on gender and racial/ethnic earnings differences, collective bargaining and occupational health and safety, and innovative teaching methods.

She holds a bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College, and earned both master’s and doctoral degrees in Economics from the University of Notre Dame. She has been married to Peter Boardman since 1979. They have two children and three grandchildren.

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Photo – University of Saint Joseph President Rhona Free and WH Mayor Shari Cantor.  Photo Credit: Ira Nozik Photographers