Academic Ceremonies - Commencement
Honorary Degree Recipient
Gretchen B. Morse
Doctor of Laws
Gretchen B. Morse, UVM Class of 1975, has spent 30 years in public service initiating and implementing policies that improve the health and well being of Vermonters. As executive director of the United Way of Chittenden County for the past 18 years, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Human Services from 1985 to 1991, and Vermont State Representative from 1977 to 1985, Morse has advocated for equal rights and opportunity for all.
While serving in the Vermont Legislature, Morse chaired the House Education Committee from 1980 to 1982 and the House Health and Welfare Committee from 1982 to 1984. As Secretary of Human Services, the largest agency in state government, Morse led the development of the Reach-Up Program, a welfare-to-work initiative that coordinates access to education, job training, childcare and health care for working families. She was part of Governor Madeleine Kunin’s team that created “Dr. Dynasaur,” the Vermont version of the federal Medicaid children’s health care program that has become a national best practice for covering more children in low-income families. While Secretary, Morse was elected vice-chair of the National Council of State Human Service Administrators of the American Public Welfare Association from 1990 to 1991.
Throughout her career, Morse helped strengthen state partnerships with community-based programs to provide better service and to reduce the use of costly institutional care. Court diversion and house arrest, development of the state community mental health system, expansion of home health care, and independent living services for people with disabilities all benefited from her leadership.
Morse has received numerous community services awards: Susan B. Anthony Award from the YWCA; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award; Thibodeau/Wall Award for Community Service from Howard Center; Champlain College Distinguished Citizen Award; and, the 2008 C. Harry Behney Lifetime Economic Achievement Award from the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation. In 1983 Morse received the Distinguished Service Award from UVM’s College of Education and Social Services for her service to the people of Vermont; and, in 1998 was honored by UVM’s MPA program as an honorary member of the Pi Alpha Alpha for her service to the state of Vermont.Morse has served on a number of state commissions and non-profit boards. She is currently a member of the boards of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Vermont Health Foundation and Emeritus Board Member of Vermont’s only continuing care community, Wake Robin Corporation.