The title literally means “for the sake of honor” and is often conferred to a person because of their contribution to a specific field. It is an honorary degree (commonly a doctorate, in rare times, a master’s) given to a person who has not necessarily earned it through matriculation.
“The honoris causa,” said University President Rev. Fr. Joel Alve OAR, “is given today not because of the person’s stature or money but because of the outcomes of their contributions to the industry.”
Fr. Alve was talking about not just any other honorary degree, but one conferred to Olivia V. Yanson, the matriarch and one-half of Vallacar Transit, Inc., the largest land transport company in the Philippines.
The honoris causa, Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration, was given by the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos during the conferment rites at the University gymnasium today, 30 August 2023.
Olivia, known fondly as Mommy Love to people who knew her, acknowledged the conferment with a proud declaration: “I would be so honored to be Dr(a). Olivia V. Yanson.”
The honorary degree came 19 years after Olivia’s own husband Ricardo, was conferred the Doctor of Laws degree, also honoris causa, by the University of St. La Salle – Bacolod.
Her acceptance speech dotted with humorous asides, Olivia delivered her response amid applause and appreciative laughter from the audience.
At one point in her speech, she paused and jokingly encouraged the audience to just refer to her video instead of listening to her read her response.
The video she was referring to was a tribute to her formidable contribution to the community, including charitable works, health care and feeding programs, and scholarships which she organized through her OVY Educational and Health Care Foundation Inc.
During the conferment rites, which was attended by leaders from both private and public sectors, Olivia narrated her life with her husband as two of her children, Leo Rey, and Ginette Yanson-Dumancas listened on.
She talked of how she had to give up her career as a nurse, a degree she earned in Silliman University in 1956, to support her husband who eventually became the owner of the monolithic transport group that operates the now iconic Ceres buses all throughout the country.
Giving up her career as a nurse though, and standing by her husband and supporting him proved to be a good call (understatement here). An empire was built through their hard work, and through such an empire, Olivia was able to do things that enabled her to help thousands, including the poor in need of help for their cleft palate or tumor surgeries, among others.
Not only that, her foundation had also been a source of hope for people wanting to have a better life through a good education.
Her humanitarian work, as well as her impact to lives of thousands including employees of Vallacar Transit, make her truly worthy, as the University President pointed out, of the honoris causa.