Although Dr. Anthony Fauci might not be a household name, some graduating Ohio State students are welcoming the 2016 Spring Commencement speaker with anticipation as the ceremony approaches.
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 during commencement, which is scheduled to begin Sunday at noon.
He has served as director of the NIAID since 1984. 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, according to the NIAID website.
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.
Some students, such as fourth-year in strategic communication Maddie Graham, said they think Fauci will be a “great speaker.”
“My mom is a microbiologist, so I’ve always had an interest in science and diseases and things like that, so I think it will bring light to some important issues that people have thought about,” Graham said.
University President Michael Drake said in an OSU press release that selecting Fauci, who he called “one of the world’s leading and most impactful scientists,” was a privilege.
“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,” Drake said.
Brian Acunis, a fourth-year in strategic communication, said he thinks having Fauci speak will help shape students’ perceptions of HIV and AIDS issues on college campuses.
“I think he’s going to be a great speaker because there’s still so much stigma around AIDS and HIV, and there’s still a lot of inadvertent homophobia behind it,” he said. “Hopefully, having a speaker that has done so much work for that community and those diseases will help break down those bonds.”
Fauci told The Lantern in March that he was honored to be selected to address graduating students and their families during the 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.”
Haley Edison, a fourth-year in human development and family science, said she thinks it is “awesome to have such a prestigious figure in such an important field” as this year’s Spring Commencement speaker.
“I encourage anyone who is not familiar with his work to research it more because it is critical to our lives. I am definitely looking forward to hearing what he has to say at commencement,” Edison said.
However, there are some students, like Brian Fredman, a fifth-year in chemical engineering, who are not as excited to hear from Fauci during commencement.
“Based on the high-profile commencement speakers that the university has gotten in the past, I had high expectations, and when the commencement speaker (was) somebody that I have never heard of, I was a little disappointed,” he said. “However, I’ve come to learn he’s a highly intelligent, influential member of society, and I’m interested to hear what he has to say.”
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. OSU does not pay commencement speakers, according to an OSU spokeswoman.
Fauci said he plans to not only touch on his experiences in science and medicine but also discuss broader topics applicable to the entire graduating body.
“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.
This will be Fauci’s first visit to OSU. He said he is looking forward to meeting Buckeyes and exploring 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.