Small bottles of hand sanitizer were handed out to family, friends and the nearly 200 graduates of the School of Public Health and Health Services at the school’s graduation ceremony Saturday, a gesture to prevent the spread of swine flu at GW, Interim Dean Josef Reum quipped.
The graduating class is the largest in the school’s history, according to Reum, and spectators of the ceremony completely filled Lisner Auditorium on Saturday afternoon. Roslyn M. Brock, vice chairman of the National Board of Directors for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and a GW alumna, gave the ceremony’s keynote address and spoke warmly of her time at GW.
Brock, who graduated from the SPHHS in 1989, said she was honored when Reum invited her to address the graduating class.
“I have very, very fond memories of my time at here at George Washington University, especially trying to find a parking space,” Brock said to laughs from the crowd.
She shared what she called “life lessons” from her 25-year-long career in public health with the new graduates.
“We cannot and we must not make decisions about others without including them,” Brock said.
Brock told graduates never to lose their will to instill change in society.
“You are America’s best, and George Washington University’s finest,” she said. “As you graduate from this place, I challenge each of you to find your voice, to address critical social and economic policy that need your attention. I challenge you to be catalysts for change.”
During the ceremony, seven SPHHS faculty members received awards for excellence in teaching. Graduates gave Reum an enthusiastic standing ovation when he won an award for excellence in teaching large graduate classes.
Katherine Hunting, associate dean for academic and faculty affairs and professor of public health, read excerpts from the professors’ course evaluations and told the audience that students felt Reum inspired them to read and learn more than was required of them.
After the faculty awards presentation, the school’s student speaker, Matt Goldshore, told his fellow graduates not to settle for just average.
“If we fail to do new things, share new information or become relevant, if we resign ourselves to singing the same old songs, people will not listen,” Goldshore said. “And if we are in public health and we no longer have the ear of the public, we can no longer do our work.”