Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe received the distinguished alumni award from Barry University late Saturday.
The Haitian leader said his experience at the school was one filled with “discipline and perseverance” when he studied political science and French there.
“I never thought that I would become prime minister after I graduated,” he said. “I wondered what was next and whether I would find a job.”
Lamothe, who came to the private university to compete on the tennis team, graduated from the school in 1996.
Born in Port-au-Prince, Lamothe lost when he first tried out for team.
“Very badly,” he said at a news conference before receiving the award. “But the coach gave me an opportunity — and I seized it.”
Lamothe became the first men’s tennis player to be named an All-American at the school and he represented Haiti in the Davis Cup in 1994 and 1995.
He later went on to St. Thomas University to earn an MBA.
Before joining President Michel Martelly’s government in Haiti, he worked mostly as an entrepreneur in the telecommunications industry.
Lamothe has previously said he wanted to reignite reconstruction and promote Haiti as an investment destination.
As the prime minister of the island nation, he is now deep in relief efforts as the country battles the fallout from natural disasters in recent years.
The most recent disaster was Hurricane Sandy, which swept through parts of the Caribbean and up toward the northeastern seaboard of the United States. The storm killed more than 50 people in Haiti and caused more than $200 million in damage.
“We’ve called for international solidarity,” Lamothe said.
He said the government is working to reduce its reliance on international aid, but in the wake of the storm, the country has received about $20 million in pledges from the international community. The U.S. has pledged $7.5 million toward relief efforts.
“We don’t just want to invest in emergency [response],” Lamothe said. “We want to invest in prevention.”
The chief among the country’s worries is protecting the riverbeds and rebuilding the agriculture sector, he said.
Laurent was appointed to the post after former United Nations diplomat Garry Conille resigned in February after only four months on the job. Lamothe was previously the minister of Foreign Affairs.
“The situation is difficult for any government,” Lamothe said. “Let alone for a government with little means.”
Other alumni honored included Luis Marin, a podiatric surgeon at Leon Medical Center and Mimi Watson Sutherland, a neurosurgical specialist at Jackson Health System.