News at Princeton

Friday, April 28, 2017
 Paul Farmer

Paul Farmer

Photo: Mark Rosenberg

  Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert

Photo: Courtesy of Comedy Central


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Farmer, Colbert chosen to address seniors

Medical anthropologist and physician Paul Farmer will deliver the address at this year's Baccalaureate, and Emmy Award-winning actor and writer Stephen Colbert will speak at the annual Class Day ceremony, leaders of the senior class have announced.

Farmer is a founding director of Partners In Health, an international charity organization that provides direct health care services and undertakes research and advocacy activities on behalf of those who are sick and living in poverty. He will speak at the interfaith worship service, which is one of Princeton's oldest traditions, on Sunday, June 1.

Colbert, the host and executive producer of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," will deliver the keynote address at the Class Day ceremony on Monday, June 2.

President Shirley M. Tilghman selects the Baccalaureate speaker after consultation with senior class leaders. In an e-mail to the class of 2008, class officers said they recommended Farmer because he is a "man of great moral force and inspiration."

"Dr. Farmer's fight for the poorest and most vulnerable people of the world is a perfect theme as we graduate and hopefully move on to similarly self-giving careers," said Tom Haine, president of the class of 2008.

Farmer was awarded an honorary degree from Princeton in 2006 for devoting "his significant talents to saving lives" from rural Haiti to war-torn Rwanda to inner-city Boston. He is the Maude and Lillian Presley Professor of Medical Anthropology in the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. His work draws primarily on active clinical practice and focuses on diseases that disproportionately afflict the poor. He is an attending physician in infectious diseases and associate chief of the Division of Social Medicine and Health Inequalities at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) in Boston, and he served for 10 years as medical director of a charity hospital, L'Hôpital Bon Sauveur, in rural Haiti.

Along with his colleagues at BWH, in the Program in Infectious Disease and Social Change at Harvard Medical School, and in Haiti, Peru, Russia, Rwanda, Lesotho and Malawi, Farmer has pioneered novel, community-based treatment strategies for AIDS and tuberculosis (including multidrug-resistant tuberculosis). Farmer and his colleagues have successfully challenged the policymakers and critics who claim that quality health care is impossible to deliver in resource-poor settings. He also has written extensively about health and human rights, and about the role of social inequalities in determining the distribution and outcomes of infectious diseases.

Leaders of the senior class selected Colbert from among numerous nominees suggested by classmates for the Class Day speaker.

"For his success as an actor, author and public speaker, we are honored that Mr. Colbert will be joining the senior class to help us celebrate the end of our college careers," Haine wrote in an e-mail to the class earlier this year.

Colbert joined the cast of Comedy Central's parody-news series "The Daily Show" in 1997 as a writer and correspondent, and went on to help the show earn a number of Emmy and Peabody awards. Since 2005, he has hosted "The Colbert Report," in which he parodies the conventions of television news broadcasting playing a blustery right-wing pundit.

Colbert is the recipient of various other honors for his work, including being named the 2007 "Person of the Year" by the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival and among Time's 100 most influential people in 2006. His book, "I Am America (and So Can You!)," was published this past fall.

Class Day, which takes place the day before Princeton's Commencement, also will include student remarks, the induction of honorary class members and other special recognitions. The ceremony is scheduled to be held on Cannon Green, weather permitting, at 10:30 a.m. It is a ticketed event for seniors and their invited guests only.

Baccalaureate is an end-of-the-year ceremony also focused on members of the senior class. Beginning at 2 p.m. in the University Chapel, it includes prayers and readings from various religious and philosophical traditions. The earliest recorded Baccalaureate address -- titled "Religion and the Public Spirit" -- was delivered by President Samuel Davies in 1760 to the 11 members of the graduating class. Since 1972, the address has been given by a speaker chosen by the president after discussion with class leaders.

Seating in the chapel is limited to members of the senior class and faculty procession. Seniors receive two tickets for family and guests who may view the ceremony via simulcast, including on a large screen to be set up outside the chapel. 

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