Director for the CDC, Dr. Mandy K. Cohen, to deliver 2024 Commencement address

Baccalaureate speaker will be Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics Rev. Gary Dorrien

One of the nation’s top health leaders, Dr. Mandy K. Cohen, will deliver Wake Forest University’s commencement address on Monday, May 20. The ceremony will take place on Hearn Plaza and begins at 9 a.m.

Dr. Cohen is the Director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. An internal medicine physician, she has experience leading large and complex organizations, and a proven track record of protecting Americans’ health and safety.

“As a physician and leader, Dr. Cohen has dedicated her career to improving health and wellbeing in North Carolina and nationwide,’ said Wake Forest University President Susan R. Wente.

“Our graduates are called to embody Pro Humanitate in the world. Dr. Cohen’s life and career demonstrate a commitment to this same calling.” Wake Forest University President Susan R. Wente

Dr. Cohen led the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, where she focused on equity, data accountability and transparent communication as she helped lead the country during the COVID crisis. In 2023, she transformed the North Carolina Medicaid program through the state’s Medicaid expansion and her focus on “whole person health.”

In 2020, Dr. Cohen was awarded the Leadership in Public Health Practice Award from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health for her outstanding leadership during the COVID pandemic. In 2019, Modern Healthcare named her one of the Top 25 Women Leaders in Healthcare.

Dr. Cohen received her bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, her Doctor of Medicine from the Yale School of Medicine and her Master’s in Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health. She trained in Internal Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. She has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine and serves as an adjunct professor at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Baccalaureate Speaker Selected 

Reverend Gary Dorrien

Also joining Wake Forest for the commencement weekend will be baccalaureate speaker Reverend Gary Dorrien, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Religion at Columbia University.

Dorrien is one of the nation’s preeminent ethicists, a prominent public intellectual bridging faith and public life, and a fearless advocate for a just and more humane world. He is the author of 21 books and more than 300 articles that range across the fields of social ethics, philosophy, theology, political economics, social and political theory, religious history, cultural criticism, and intellectual history.

Baccalaureate will be held on Sunday, May 19, at 11 a.m. in Wait Chapel.

Read more about how Wake Forest selects Commencement speakers here.

About Commencement Events

  • Commencement and Baccalaureate are ticketed events reserved for graduates, their families and guests and are not open to the public. 
  • Media credentials are required to attend commencement events. Parking passes will be required to enter campus. All members of the media are also asked to carry their own media credentials. Email to request credentials and parking passes no later than Monday, May 13. 
  • Livestream webcasts of the commencement ceremony and baccalaureate will be available on the University’s commencement website and recordings of each will be posted after the event.

Additional information about Wake Forest’s commencement weekend will be available soon on the University’s Commencement website.

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