Public Health

Commencement and weekend events

May 13, 2008



I hope everyone who attended commencement had a great time and that even more faculty will attend next year. For me, it was a tangible, joyful reminder of why we are an educational institution and not merely a research organization—we prepare students to change the world for the better. It’s both fun and exciting to see how proud and hopeful our students and their families are when the journey has ended. It’s so rewarding to meet parents, spouses, and children of our grads.


I really enjoyed meeting our commencement speaker, Dr. Heather Munroe-Blum, who received an honorary degree from UNC-Chapel Hill May 11th. Dr. Munroe-Blum is the first woman to be principal and vice chancellor at McGill University in Canada, one of the finest universities in the world. She’s an astoundingly thoughtful person who is an astute thinker on the topic of leadership. We talked about how men and women function differently as leaders. I thought her commencement talk was right on the mark. She talked about our inter-connectedness as humans, globalization, leadership and other topics.


It’s exciting that two of the University’s honorary degrees went to people associated with public health. Along with Dr. Munroe-Blum, Dr. Philip Palmer Green, III was recognized for his transformational work in genetics. He talked about how he’d been so influenced by Dr. Robert Elston, a statistical geneticist who lived in Chapel Hill next door to him. joseph-mia-commence-2008_.jpg Green, as Dr. Munroe-Blum did, mentioned people in our school (notably, biostatistics faculty) who’d given him opportunities here. He was nominated by Professors Fred Wright and John Anderson. Dr. Munroe-Blum was nominated by Professor Bert Kaplan. I appreciate them for taking the time to nominate these fine people. It’s a wonderful way to recognize outstanding people. It also educates a huge audience about what we do.

The other scientist who received an honorary degree, Dr. Peter Courtland Agre, works on malaria and commented to me that public health is a hot field.


So, the weekend brought not only appropriate focus on our graduates but also shone a light on the centrality of public health as an essential field in today’s world.

On another note, it was great to see Dr. Steve Marshall, Professor of Epidemiology, quoted extensively in a Sunday New York Times magazine article, “The Uneven Playing Field.” Steve is trying to understand why teenage girls who play soccer experience a disproportionate number of ACL injuries. It’s an important problem.

I really appreciate all the work Assistant Dean Felicia Mebane, Sherry Rhodes, student services managers, student marshals, Brent Wishart and Rob Kark do to make our commencement activities so enjoyable and flow so smoothly. It takes a village!

Saturday, along with Chancellor Moeser, Joan and Dennis Gillings were recognized by the GAA for what they’ve done for Carolina.

Happy Monday! Barbara

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The views expressed in this blog are Barbara Rimer’s alone and do not represent the views and policies of The University of North Carolina or the Gillings School.