Sue Desmond-Hellmann, the CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is Ohio State’s Spring Commencement speaker. Desmond-Hellmann, a physician, scientist and philanthropist, has a professional history filled with cancer research, philanthropy and health endeavors.
In the ‘80s, she was the chief resident of internal medicine at the University of California, San Francisco; in the ‘90s, she was the associate director of clinical oncology at Bristol-Myers Squibb, a biopharmaceutical company; for five years in the 2000s she was the first female chancellor at University of California, San Francisco and in 2014 she began her current role as CEO at the Gates Foundation.
In charge of the organization’s $40 billion endowment fund, Desmond-Hellmann works to reduce inequities in health, improve the delivery of health products across the globe and enhance U.S. high school and postsecondary education.
A large chunk of her job has included pushing for female equality, specifically in health care and at the workplace. In 2017, the Gates Foundation invested $20 million to enhance women’s ability to participate in self-help groups.
“I want girls, women, no matter where they are in the world, to feel as powerful as their male colleagues. To feel as respected, to feel like opportunity is there,” Desmond-Hellmann said on the Geekwire podcast in December.
A 2009 Forbes magazine article listed Desmond-Hellmann as one of the world’s seven most “powerful innovators.” Additionally, she was on Fortune magazine’s “top 50 most powerful women in business” for seven years and currently serves on the board of directors at Facebook Inc.
“It is an honor to welcome health care pioneer Sue Desmond-Hellmann to speak at Ohio State’s 418th commencement ceremony,” University President Michael Drake said in a statement. “Dr. Desmond-Hellmann has dedicated her life to tackling some of the most complex and challenging issues of our time. Her message will inspire and motivate our graduates as they begin the next chapter of their lives.”
She will soon join the ranks of other Ohio State commencement speakers, including former president Barack Obama, former Speaker of the House John Boehner, two-time Heisman Trophy-winner Archie Griffin and visual artist Ann Hamilton, just to name a few.
About 11,700 students will receive diplomas during Spring Commencement May 6 at Ohio Stadium.