Ohio State’s graduating class of 2016 will be addressed by a prominent scientist and immunologist during the upcoming Spring Commencement on May 8.
OSU announced that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is set to give the graduation address to about 11,000 graduates at Ohio Stadium. Commencement is scheduled to begin at noon.
Fauci said he was delighted and honored to address graduating Buckeyes and their families during the upcoming Spring Commencement ceremony.
“Ohio State University is certainly one of the extraordinary universities in our country,” he said. “I’ve given commencement addresses across the country and at a number of universities … but Ohio State is extraordinary.”
University President Michael Drake said welcoming Fauci, who he called “one of the world’s leading and most impactful scientists,” was a privilege, according to an OSU release.
“Dr. Fauci has played a critical role in the battle against HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases for more than three decades, and will share with our graduates and families some of the principles that have guided him through these global health challenges,” he said.
The decision to ask Fauci to deliver the Spring Commencement speech was made after Drake approved a number of nominations that had been outlined by the OSU Speaker Advisory Committee. An OSU spokeswoman said OSU does not pay commencement speakers.
Fauci has served as director of the NIAID since 1984. In this position, he supervises a large portfolio of research that may be applied to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a myriad of issues, including HIV and AIDS, respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases and malaria, as well as the Ebola and Zika viruses.
He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008, and advised five presidents, from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, as well as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding HIV, AIDS and other health issues, according to the NIAID website.
“He has been instrumental in developing treatments that enable people with HIV to live long and active lives. He continues to devote much of his research on the immunopathogenic mechanisms of HIV infection and the scope of the body’s immune responses to HIV,” the NIAID website states.
A 2003 study from the Institute for Scientific Information indicated he was the 13th most-cited scientist between 1983 to 2002, according to the NIAID website. He was the 18th most highly cited researcher of all time in a 2016 analysis of Google Scholar citations, according to the Webometrics website.
The significance of the commencement ceremony to graduating students is far from lost on Fauci, a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross who earned his M.D. degree from Cornell University Medical College. He referred to graduating from college as a rite of passage that graduates will look back on as a major benchmark in their lives.
“They may not realize it at the time, but it’s always the focal point that you think back on as one of the landmarks in your life,” he said.
For Fauci, the commencement ceremony signals the beginning of a new phase in graduates’ lives, which gives the moment its gravity and excitement, not only for graduates, but for their families.
“It’s the end of what is likely a very impactful and important experience in your life, namely having gone to Ohio State University but, yet, it’s the beginning of the beginning of the next phase of your life,” he said. “There’s a certain sadness about leaving something that you’ve been very attached to for four or more years, but that’s just coupled and fortified by the excitement you have about what lies ahead for you.”
Fauci said he plans to touch on his experiences in science and medicine during his address, but he intends to also talk about broader topics that are applicable to the entire graduating body, he said.
“I’m going to try to relate my own experiences from the time that I graduated and the kind of things in life that you’re faced with,” he said.
Fauci said this will be his first visit to OSU, adding that he looks forward to meeting Buckeyes and exploring the OSU campus during his stay for commencement.
“I’ve always had a great deal of admiration for Ohio State and, to me, this is something I am looking forward to with very positive anticipation,” he said.