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Malerba to deliver Eastern Connecticut's commencement address

Willimantic — Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, chief of the Mohegan Tribe, will be the commencement speaker at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 129th commencement exercises on May 21 at the XL Center in Hartford, the university announced Tuesday.

Malerba, who will receive an honorary doctorate during the ceremonies, became the tribe’s 18th chief on Aug. 15, 2010, succeeding Ralph Sturges. The first female chief in the tribe’s modern history, she was appointed to the lifetime position by the tribe’s Council of Elders.

"I am thrilled to be a part of our Eastern Connecticut State University celebration of commencement," Malerba said. "The students have worked hard to get to this day. We have a long history with Eastern, and I follow Chief Ralph Sturges, who also received this honor, as well as all the tribal leaders that have gone before me."

At the time of her appointment as chief, Malerba was serving her second term on the Mohegan Tribal Council, having been elected chairman the previous year. The council governs the tribe and oversees management of its gaming enterprises, including Mohegan Sun, its flagship casino. Malerba also served as executive director of health and human services for tribal government.

Previously, she had a distinguished career as a registered nurse and served as director of cardiology and pulmonary services at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital. She earned her doctor of nursing practice degree at Yale University and was named a Jonas Scholar. She also holds a master's degree in public administration from the University of Connecticut. She earned her undergraduate degree at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, which also has awarded her an honorary doctorate.

Malerba has a national reputation as an advocate and supporter of health issues and the welfare of Native Peoples. She is chairwoman of the Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee of the Federal Indian Health Services, and serves on the U.S. Justice Department's Tribal Nations Leadership Council, the Tribal Advisory Committee for the National Institute of Health and the U.S. Treasury Department's Tribal Advisory Committee. She is a technical expert on the Commission for Environmental Cooperation.

She also serves as secretary of the board of directors of the United South and Eastern Tribes, and is a member of the board of directors of the Ms. Foundation for Women.

In Connecticut, Malerba serves as a trustee of Chelsea Groton Bank, as a board member of the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, as an advisory committee member of the Harvard University Native American Program and, for 11 years, as a member of the board of directors of Lawrence + Memorial Hospital.

More than 1,200 undergraduate and graduate students will receive their diplomas during Eastern’s graduation exercises. Other dignitaries expected to attend include Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System; and Merle Harris, vice chairman of the Board of Regents for Higher Education.

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