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SLU President Addresses Class of 2017


On May 18, 455 students graduated from Saint Louis University’s College for Public Health and Social Justice. The Pre-Commencement ceremony took place at the Chaifetz Arena.

Students in cap and gown at the College's Pre-Commencement ceremony

Orlando Davy (left) graduated with a Master of Public Health degree in Biostatistics.

“Knowledge is powerful. It requires action. Apathy is negligent,” said Fred Pestello, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of Saint Louis University, in his address to the Class of 2017.

“When you hear stories of suffering, you have an obligation to act. When incorrect stories are told to rationalize morally unjust decisions, you have an obligation to correct the narrative. When the stories of those in our society who are most at risk are silenced, you have an obligation to elevate those stories using the access to institutions and platforms that your privilege grants you,” he added. 

The Class of 2017 included students from 215 cities in 33 states; at least 7 other countries, including Brazil, China, Ghana, India, Italy, Lebanon and Nigeria; and they represented more than 30 faith traditions. Half of the undergraduate class–171 students–graduated with honors. 

Seven students were recognized for their exemplary leadership in:

  • The Overground Railroad, a volunteer tutoring program for children in St. Louis public schools: Tommy English, Dewonna Ferguson, Audrey Manners and Maddie Zimmeran
  • “I Am Muslim And…” a social media campaign fighting Islamophobia: Amaly  Yossef
  • Public Health Service Day: Samantha Wasala
  • Public Health Fair: Jason Maddox 

Jen Jen Chang, professor of epidemiology, received the Terry Leet Teacher of the Year award.

For the first time, the event was live-streamed on the web and through the College’s Facebook page.

About the College for Public Health and Social Justice

The Saint Louis University College for Public Health and Social Justice is the only academic unit of its kind, studying social, environmental and physical influences that together determine the health and well-being of people and communities. 

It also is the only accredited school or college of public health among nearly 250 Catholic institutions of higher education in the United States. Guided by a mission of social justice and focus on finding innovative and collaborative solutions for complex health problems, the College offers nationally recognized programs in public health, social work, health administration, applied behavior analysis, and criminology and criminal justice.