Commencement 2020: Distinguished speakers commend graduates for their resolve amid pandemic

June 3, 2020 | Press Releases & Announcements

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

The CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy held its fourth commencement on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony took place virtually via Zoom, but the online format allowed for an illustrious line-up of public health leaders to address the talented class of 2020. 

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus delivered brief remarks, acknowledging the contributions of the graduates to the fight against the pandemic in one of the hardest-hit regions in the world.

“I understand that most of you have pursued your graduate degree while working in the health field, many at the front lines of New York City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Adhanom said. “Thank you for your commitment to serving your community. This is the quality that defines great public health professionals.”

Dr. Natalia Kanem

Dr. Natalia Kanem

Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, delivered the keynote speech, and was presented with an honorary Doctor of Science in Public Health degree. 

“We are living through momentous times, making clear that the health of the public matters more than ever,” Dr. Kanem said. “Because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, today’s ceremony may not be as you imagined it. However, the world needs your imagination, your ingenuity to fashion a new dynamic for public health – as you do your part to strengthen health systems and to deliver care with care.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases one of the lead members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, also gave brief remarks.

“In the next phase of your lives, some of you will actually work directly to help us prevail over this pandemic,” Dr. Fauci said. “However, all of us, directly or indirectly, will be participants in the response, whether we actually care for COVID-19 patients, do research to develop solutions, or contribute as caring, connected members of society.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci

Dr. Anthony Fauci

CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez, American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges Benjamin, Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health President Laura Magaña, and Distinguished Scholar Lyndon Haviland also addressed the class and congratulated the graduates.

CUNY SPH Dean Ayman El-Mohandes wound down the ceremony with a statement on the murder of George Floyd and a moment of silence for Floyd and the 100,000+ U.S. victims of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I invite you to join me in being actively anti-racist in this very important moment in history,” Dean El-Mohandes said. “Anti racism simply means that we cannot just rely on not approving of racism, but actually intervening actively in our daily lives, in our actions and our choices, to rid our society of this plague.”

View the livestream of Commencement 2020 here.