MSUToday
Published: Nov. 28, 2016

MSU announces commencement speakers

Contact(s): Kristen Parker Media Communications office: (517) 353-8942 cell: (517) 980-0709 Kristen.Parker@cabs.msu.edu

Michigan State University alumnus John Duffey, president of Six Flags Entertainment Corp., and alumna Barbara Ross-Lee, vice president for health sciences and medical affairs at New York Institute of Technology, will speak at MSU’s fall commencement ceremonies.

Ceremonies will be held Dec. 16-17 at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center, 534 Birch Road. Twitter users are invited to follow along using #MSUGrad16.

Duffey will speak at the 10 a.m. Dec. 17 ceremony and will receive an honorary doctorate of business. He will address graduates from the colleges of Arts and Letters, Broad Business, Education, Music, Social Science, Residential College in the Arts and Humanities and James Madison.

Also at that ceremony, Dennis Archer, the former mayor of Detroit, will receive an honorary doctorate of laws.

Later that day, Ross-Lee will speak at 2 p.m., and will receive an honorary doctorate of science. She will address graduates from the colleges of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Communication Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Natural Science, Nursing and Lyman Briggs.

Also at that ceremony, Rajmohan Gandhi, MSU Distinguished Visiting Hannah Professor, will receive an honorary doctorate of humanities.

MSU’s advanced degree graduation ceremony will be held at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 16, where MSU alumnus Michael Longaker, Deane P. and Louise Mitchell Professor in the School of Medicine at Stanford University, will speak. He will receive an honorary doctorate of science.

In addition, Natalie Crawford, senior fellow and Distinguished Chair in Air and Space Policy, RAND Corp., will receive an honorary doctorate of engineering.

“MSU has given our alumni speakers the tools to affect people’s lives in extraordinary ways,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “From leading the world’s largest regional entertainment company to breaking barriers in medicine, the stories of our speakers will inspire our newest graduates as they, too, go on to do great things. It gives me great pride to welcome our speakers back to campus.”

Consistent with Breslin Center policy, all bags will be subject to search. No food or beverages – including bottled water – will be allowed into Breslin Center, and this applies to graduates, guests and faculty participating in the ceremonies. As such, Breslin will offer a limited menu of concessions for sale during the ceremonies. Additional prohibited items include large cameras, recording devices, noisemakers, selfie sticks, pets, signs or weapons of any form. Smoking also is prohibited at the Breslin Center.

Construction note: The Gate B (southeast) entrance to Breslin is closed and there is limited parking. MSU recommends using the free shuttle service.

Biographies of the speakers and honorary degree recipients follow.

John Duffey

Duffey served as chief financial officer of Six Flags, the world’s largest regional theme park company, from September 2010 to February 2016.

Before joining the company, Duffey was executive vice president and chief integration officer for Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics, where he led the integration of Siemens Medical Solutions Diagnostics and Dade Behring. Prior to Dade Behring’s acquisition of Siemens, Duffey served as the executive vice president and chief financial officer of Dade Behring Inc.

In February, Duffey and his wife, Becky, made a $2.5 million gift to MSU to assist with renovations of the Breslin Center and to establish a named professorship in the School of Hospitality Business. In addition to both being alumni, the Duffeys are members of the Athletic Director’s Campaign Leadership Council, a group of leadership donors and campaign volunteers from around the country.

Barbara Ross-Lee

Ross-Lee is the first African-American female to serve as dean of a U.S. medical school and the first osteopathic physician to hold a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowship.

She became dean of the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1993, after which she joined NYIT, where in her current role she is responsible for the College of Osteopathic Medicine and the School of Health Professions.

Currently, Ross-Lee is director of the American Osteopathic Association Health Policy Fellowship program. In 2012, the Institute of Medicine appointed her to its Consensus Committee on the Governance and Financing of Graduate Medical Education.

Ross-Lee graduated from Wayne State University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. After graduating from MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine in September 1973, she operated a family practice in Detroit.

Her academic medicine career began in 1978 at MSU-COM, where she served as chairperson of the Department of Family Medicine from 1988 to 1990 and associate dean for health policy from 1990 to 1993. 

In addition, Ross-Lee served as a commissioned officer, United States Naval Reserves Medical Corps, from 1982 to 1994, achieving the rank of captain.

Michael Longaker

Longaker is co-director of Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine and director of children’s surgical research.

Following his education at MSU, Longaker earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School. He completed his surgical residency at University of California, San Francisco; a residency in plastic surgery at New York University; and a craniofacial fellowship at UCLA. In addition, Longaker earned an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University in the inaugural class of their combined program.

Longaker has authored more than 1,200 papers and is an inventor on more than 40 issued patents and patent applications, with research focusing on wound repair and fibrosis and skeletal development and repair. He has funded several venture-backed startup companies, including Neodyne Biosciences, and is a founding partner of Tautona Group.

While at MSU, Longaker played varsity basketball and was a member of the 1979 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Team.

Dennis Archer

Archer is chairman emeritus of Dickson Wright PLLC.

He served as mayor of Detroit from 1994 to 2001, during which time he was also president of National League of Cities.

Archer then landed at Dickinson Wright PLLC, where he worked until 2009. During his tenure there, he was chairman of the Detroit Regional Chamber board of directors.

In 2003, Archer became the first African-American president of the American Bar Association. In August, he received the ABA Medal in 2016, the highest honor given by the association.

Archer has also served as president of the State Bar of Michigan and as president of the National Bar Association.

Among his many honors, Archer was named among the 100 Most Influential Black Americans by Ebony magazine in 1984 and one of the 25 Most Dynamic Mayors in America by Newsweek in 1996.

Archer is an alumnus of the Detroit College of Law (currently MSU College of Law) and Western Michigan University.

Rajmohan Gandhi

Gandhi is spending the fall semester at MSU, giving a series of free public lectures on the life of Mahatma Gandhi – his grandfather.

Most recently Gandhi was visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Technology in India, but has also served as a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

As a biographer and researcher, Gandhi has authored 12 books and several scholarly chapters.

Gandhi holds honorary degrees from Guru Nanak Dev University, India; Liverpool Hope University, United Kingdom; University of Calgary, Canada; and Obirin University, Japan.

Natalie Crawford

Crawford is professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School and has held several leadership positions within RAND Project Air Force, including vice president and director from 1997 to 2006.

She received the U.S. Air Force Academy’s 2012 Thomas D. White National Defense Award for her significant contributions to national security. In 2011, Crawford also earned Air Force Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her commitment to advancing aerospace science and technology.

With research areas in aerospace, air defense, information operations and military strategy, Crawford is a senior mentor on the U.S. Air Force’s Scientific Advisory Board and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Crawford earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from UCLA in 1961.

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