Commencement 2015

Photo: Kent Dayton

You are not just creating a résumé. You are creating a biography,” Dean Julio Frenk told graduates on May 28 at the School’s 2015 commencement ceremony. He urged them to stay alert for “the tap on the shoulder from unexpected opportunities” and not to fear following career paths that diverge from traditional trajectories.

In his final commencement address before stepping down as Dean, Frenk reflected on the School’s “extraordinary” activity over the last two years, from the launch of the centennial year in October 2013 to the transformational gift last fall from the Chan family’s Morningside Foundation, spearheaded by Gerald Chan, SM ’75, SD ’79.

“I will leave my deanship confident that this School is positioned to change the world,” he said.

Leslie Ramsammy, who played a pivotal role in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS as Guyana’s minister of health, called on graduates to add improving global life expectancy to the list of challenges they’ll face as public health professionals. “I am confident,” he said, “that by the time your generation passes the baton on to the next, you will hand them an even better world than my generation gave you.”

Student speaker Shaniece Criss, who earned a doctor of science degree from the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, described her awakening to public health: the realization that her grandmother’s premature death from cancer was likely influenced by racism and other negative influences in her social environment. In public health, Criss said, she sees a way to redefine seemingly intractable problems and “refract negative health exposures into life-giving outcomes.”

Anthony Dias, MPH ’04, president of the Harvard Chan School Alumni Association, urged graduates to maintain ties with the School by connecting with the global alumni network.

Amy Roeder is assistant editor of Harvard Public Heath.