Panama's President Ricardo Martinelli to Speak at UA

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, a University of Arkansas alumnus, is scheduled to speak May 11 at UA's All University Commencement.

Arkansas businessman and philanthropist Lee Bodenhamer will also speak at the ceremony, which honors students who are completing their graduate school degrees. The event begins at 8:45 a.m. at Bud Walton Arena on the UA campus in Fayetteville.

Martinelli and Bodenhamer will also receive honorary degrees: Martinelli, the Doctor of Humane Letters degree, and Bodenhamer, the Doctor of Arts and Humane Letters degree.

Martinelli visited the UA campus in 2010, which was documented in this UA video:

Martinelli  earned his bachelor of science in business administration degree at UA in 1973. After graduating, he returned to Panama to own the supermarket chain Super 99, which reported $100 million in sales in 2008.

Martinelli was director of the Chamber of Commerce of Panama from 1985 to 1987 and became the country’s director of social security in 1994. In 1998, he formed the Democratic Change political party. In 1999, he became chairman of the board of directors of the Panama Canal Authority and minister of canal affairs.

Martinelli first ran for president of Panama in 2004, finishing last among four candidates. He ran again in 2009, winning 60 percent of the votes.

Bodenhamer, an El Dorado native, founded Meridian Management Co. of Little Rock, an investment management firm. Bodenhamer, a 2008 inductee of the UA's Arkansas Business Hall of Fame, earned bachelor's and master's degrees in business at the UA, where he was mentored by Harold A. Dulan, inventor of the variable annuity.

Bodenhamer left Dulan's team in 1964 to earn a doctorate at Harvard University, where he eventually taught. He later returned to Arkansas to establish First Variable Life Insurance Co.

As trustee of the Bodenhamer Foundation, he established the Bodenhamer Fellowships at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1998. In 2009, Arkansas Business named Bodenhamer among its 25 "Living Legends."