Recipient of Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

Toni Harp

Toni Nathaniel Harp

Mayor of New Haven, 2014-2020
Recipient of Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

Toni Nathaniel Harp has been described as virtuous, a leader, unique, a powerhouse, poised, a quiet storm, empathetic, and committed.

As the first woman elected as New Haven’s mayor in 2013 after serving 11 consecutive terms representing the 10th Senatorial District and its residents in western New Haven and northern West Haven, Harp’s career in public service has been steered by an abiding commitment to social justice that mirrors our mission at Southern Connecticut State University.

In her role as state senator, she led the legislature’s budget-writing Appropriations Committee for six terms and was at the forefront of efforts to improve early literacy, bridge Connecticut‘s Achievement Gap and provide access to affordable healthcare. Harp’s drive for inclusiveness, equality, and integrity earned her a reputation as “the conscience of the Senate” at the Connecticut state Capitol.

And in both Harp’s leadership roles she vigorously supported public higher education, and Southern in particular, recognizing our system’s leadership role in shaping Connecticut’s knowledge-based economy. Thanks to her active support at the state Capitol, Southern saw a new business school and science building completed during her tenure, as well as a major expansion and renovation of Buley Library.

As a three-term mayor, Harp was a key player in establishing BioPath -- a partnership involving New Haven, Southern, and the city’s burgeoning biotechnology industry that has enhanced research and learning in the sciences, and created both internships and career opportunities for our science students.

As a 40-year New Haven resident, Harp continues her public service as a current board member for a range of community-based organizations. Through these many contributions, she embodies the core values of dignity, respect, kindness, compassion, and civility that Southern aspires to exemplify.