Sheila Wellstone, wife and working partner of U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone and nationally recognized for her leadership as an advocate against family violence, will be the featured speaker at UMD commencement ceremonies set for Saturday, May 18 at 12 noon at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center (DECC). Eight hundred and forty graduates will be marching in the ceremonies. The announcement was made by Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin who also stated that Sheila Wellstone will be awarded the Chancellor's Distinguished Service Award.
Chancellor Martin said, "Sheila Wellstone is widely recognized as an effective and tireless advocate for social justice. We are very pleased and honored to have her as UMD's commencement speaker and to present to her with the Chancellor's Distinguished Service Award."
Since the election of her husband to the Senate in 1990, Sheila has focused her work on preventing violence and protecting victims of violence. Traveling throughout Minnesota, Sheila has listened to the stories of women, children and men who have experienced abuse and to the stories of those who are working to end the cycle of violence. It is in hearing these stories of struggle and triumph that Sheila finds her passion for influencing public policy in our nation's capital.
Sheila works with her husband to create federal legislation that will help to achieve the goal of violence-free families and communities. She has served on many national and Minnesota advisory committees on domestic violence, and she was appointed by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to the Violence Against Women Advisory Council in 1995. In addition, she and Senator Wellstone host an art exhibit on Capital Hill every October during National Domestic Violence Awareness month to raise awareness about domestic violence. Sheila helped craft a number of pieces of legislation including the historic Violence Against Women Act.
Hearing the heartbreaking stories of women and girls victimized by international trafficking for forced labor and prostitution has inspired Sheila to take action against this horrific crime. Sheila, together with Senator Wellstone, was instrumental in the creation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, the first comprehensive bill to address this growing international problem. The bill aims to prevent trafficking, to strengthen the prosecution of those responsible for trafficking and to provide protection to those subjected to trafficking.
A native of Kentucky, Sheila lives with her husband in St. Paul, Minn., and in Washington, D.C. They have three children and six grandchildren.