2019 Commencement: ‘Pay It Forward Whenever You Can’

Rush University students face and overcome all kinds of tough tests from faculty en route to earning their degrees. Students among the newest batch of graduates were left with one last challenge to ponder.

Sherine Gabriel, MD, MSc, the newly minted president of Rush University, called on the more than 700 graduating students at the University’s 47th commencement ceremony April 27 to be Rush ambassadors for health and give back to vulnerable, underserved communities.

“Give back, pay it forward, whenever you can,” says Gabriel, who was the honorary degree recipient and commencement speaker. “Commit to becoming part of the solution. As a Rush ambassador for health, you will face challenges. When you do, rely on your education, your training, your experience, and know that your Rush family will always be there to support you.”

Gabriel, who in February became Rush University’s fourth president, gave a speech that drew from her vast experience as a leader in health sciences education, patient care and medical research. Prior to joining Rush, Gabriel was the dean of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical Group in New Brunswick, New Jersey, as well as a distinguished professor of medicine.

“As you embark on your careers and your lives, keep your support network close,” she says. “Honor the sacrifices they have made for you.”

Take in the sights and sounds of Gabriel’s speech, and all of the joy and excitement of the students, their mentors and their families:

It was the last commencement ceremony for Larry Goodman, MD, immediate past president of Rush University, who served as University marshal after handing out more than 8,000 degrees at Rush commencement ceremonies during his run as president, which began in 2002. Goodman is also set to retire as CEO of the Rush University System for Health and Rush University Medical Center.

“Most leaders grow into their job, but few excel far beyond expectations. Dr. Goodman is the best of those few,” says Robert Wislow, vice chair of the Rush University board of governors, who presented Goodman with an honorary degree that was followed with a standing ovation.

Goodman passed the torch to Gabriel, who along with Thomas Deutsch, MD, provost of Rush University, presided over the ceremony and awarded degrees to students graduating from the University’s four colleges: Rush Medical College, the College of Nursing, the College of Health Sciences and the Graduate College. They were surrounded by all of the many faculty and staff members at Rush University who work together to provide students with an atmosphere where they can flourish.

Among them was the Rev. Clayton L. Thomason, JD, MDiv, chairperson of the Department of Religion, Health and Human Values, College of Health Sciences, who told the graduates, “Our role is not merely to perform work so we can fill out our days or even to make a difference in this world, but to make a different world.”