Dr. Deborah Birx to speak at 2014 Commencement


By Martina Glab

This June, Union is honored to welcome Dr. Deborah L. Birx to speak at the 220th Commencement exercises held for the Class of 2014. A specialist in HIV/AIDS, Birx is the author of numerous scientific publications and over 220 manuscripts, which have been featured in a wide-ranging collection of peer-reviewed journals. In addition to developing and patenting a number of vaccines, she served as the director of Global AIDS Programs for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2005 to 2009 where she endorsed HIV, STD and TB prevention.

Serving on active duty for the U.S. Army, she directed the U.S. Military HIV Research Program as well as the Division of Retrovirology at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. After 29 years of dedicated service, she earned the rank of colonel and received the U.S. Meritorious Service Medal and the Legion of Merit Award and leadership in HIV/AIDS, retiring in 2008.

Graduating with a B.S. from Houghton College and an M.D. from Penn State University, Birx has served as the director of the Division of Global HIV/AIDS at the CDC since 2009. This past January, she was nominated by President Obama to serve as an ambassador at large and U.S. global AIDS coordinator, becoming the first-ever woman to hold the position. As coordinator, she works closely with the U.S. Department of State where she oversees the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief nationwide.

Birx’s visit to the campus this June will reflect the campus community’s continual efforts to bring light to health and wellness this year. “We are very pleased and proud that Dr. Deborah Birx has agreed to speak at this year’s Commencement,” states President Stephen C. Ainlay. He adds, “She is a much respected leader in global health, and news of her selection as U.S. global AIDS coordinator has been universally praised.  We celebrate her many accomplishments and contributions and are excited about the difference she will undoubtedly make in her new role.”

While approximately 525 students from the Class of 2014 will receive degrees during the Commencement proceedings to take place on June 15, Birx will accept an honorary doctorate of science degree from the college. The college will also recognize Walter P. Murphy Professor Emeritus of Materials Science and Enegineering in Service at Northwestern University Morris E. Fine. He will also be honored with a Doctorate of Science degree for his contributions to physical metallurgy. He was nominated by Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Rebecca Cortez.

More information on Commencement can be found at www.union.edu/events/commencement.


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