Illinois Medical District, Obama Foundation CEOs to speak at UIC commencement

A health care industry executive and a longtime aide to former President Barack Obama will speak at separate commencement ceremonies Dec. 16 at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

A ceremony for the Graduate College will be held at 9 a.m. and an undergraduate ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. at the UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine Ave.

Illinois Medical District leader Dr. Suzet McKinney will speak to graduate students, and Obama Foundation CEO David Simas will address undergraduates receiving degrees in Architecture, Design, and the Arts; Business Administration; Education; Engineering; Liberal Arts and Sciences; Nursing; and Urban Planning and Public Affairs. More than 1,450 graduate students and 1,500 undergraduate students are eligible to participate in graduation ceremonies.

Dr. McKinney is CEO and executive director of the Illinois Medical District, which houses four hospitals, medical research facilities, labs, a biotech business incubator, two universities, development areas and more than 40 health care facilities.

Suzet McKinney

Dr. Suzet McKinney

McKinney previously worked with the Chicago Department of Public Health, where she was deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Public Health Preparedness and Emergency Response, and the Tauri Group, providing strategic and analytic consulting services to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s BioWatch Program.

She led emergency and operational response efforts after Ebola outbreaks (2014-15), H1N1 outbreaks (2009), the Haiti earthquake (2010), among others.

McKinney’s experience, reputation and communication skills have made her a highly resourced on-camera media expert on emergency issues and a point of reference and support for the federal government’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

In academia, she is an instructor at Harvard University and an adjunct assistant professor at the UIC School of Public Health, where she received her doctoral degree.

Simas is CEO of the Obama Foundation, started by former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama to inspire and empower the next generation of civic leaders to create positive change in their communities and around the world. The Obama Foundation is developing the Obama Presidential Center in the South Side of Chicago.

David Simas

David Simas

In 2007, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick appointed Simas, a native of the state, as his deputy chief of staff. Two years later, Simas joined the Obama administration as Deputy Assistant to the President, working with senior advisers David Axelrod and David Plouffe. For Obama’s re-election in 2012, Simas became the director of opinion research. After Obama’s re-election, Simas returned to the White House as Director of the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach.

Simas has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Stonehill College and a J.D. from Boston College Law School. He lives in Chicago with his wife Shauna and their two daughters.

McKinney and Simas will receive the UIC Chancellor’s Medallion, the university’s top honor, for service and leadership to benefit the global community.

To accommodate guests who cannot attend, UIC will stream both commencements.

Click here for complete details about Winter Commencement at UIC.