Headshot of Dr. Shah

2021 Commencement Speaker

Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D., director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a trusted voice in Maine’s coronavirus pandemic response, will receive an honorary degree and deliver the Commencement address at the University of New England’s 186th Commencement exercises on May 15 and 16, 2021.

Shah, who was appointed as director of the Maine CDC in June 2019, will deliver his remarks via video at each of the University’s six individual college graduation ceremonies.

Shah came to the Maine CDC with broad experience in public health, most recently as director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, where he implemented key initiatives to address the state's opioid crisis, reduce maternal and infant mortality, and reduce childhood lead poisoning.

As an attorney and public health economist, Shah previously advised professionals and governments around the nation and globe on improving the delivery of health care. Earlier in his career, he worked for the Ministry of Health in Cambodia, where his work included investigating and managing disease outbreaks as an epidemiologist.

Shah received both his medical and law degrees from the University of Chicago, and he also studied economics at Oxford University.

“Dr. Shah has been a tireless leader and a fearless advocate for science throughout the novel coronavirus pandemic, and his work to promote public health aligns strongly with UNE’s commitment to bettering the health of our communities and the planet,” said UNE President James D. Herbert, Ph.D. “Dr. Shah is a role model for our students, and I am excited to hear what knowledge and insights he has to share with our community.”

In response, Shah offered: “I extend deep gratitude to the entire University of New England community for this honor. We have all had to find new ways to learn during the COVID-19 pandemic, and I look forward to joining the Class of 2021 in recognizing their success in doing so.”

Previous Commencement Speakers

  • 2020 Jonathan Haidt, Ph.D., social psychologist at New York University’s Stern School of Business
  • 2019 Honorable Janet T. Mills, Governor of Maine
  • 2018 Catherine A. Sanderson, Ph.D., Manwell Family Professor of Life Sciences (Psychology), Amherst College
  • 2017 Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)
  • 2016 Dr. Robert Michael Franklin, Jr., James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor of Moral Leadership at Emory University, Director of the Religion Department of the Chautauqua Institution
  • 2015 Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, President/CEO, Goodwill Industries of Northern New England 
  • 2014 Gregory W. Powell, J.D., CEO/President of Dexter Enterprises, Inc, & Chairman of the Harold Alfond Foundation
  • 2013 Honorable Angus King (I), U.S. Senator, Maine
  • 2012 Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D)
  • 2011 Congressman Michael Michaud (D)
  • 2010 Harvey V. Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D., President of the Institute of Medicine
  • 2009 Rita Colwell, Ph.D., Nationally-respected Scientist and Educator
  • 2008 John McKernan, Former Governor of Maine
  • 2007 Robert Shetterly, Maine Artist and Author
  • 2006 Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic Gold Medalist
  • 2005 Olympia J. Snowe, United States Senator, Maine
  • 2004 Henry L. P. Schmelzer, President and CEO Maine Community Foundation
  • 2003 Henry L. P. Schmelzer, President and CEO Maine Community Foundation
  • 2002 Daniel Wathen, Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Court
  • 2001 Congressman Tom Allen, U.S. Congressman, Maine
  • 2000 Robert McAfee, Former President of the American Medical Association, UNE Board of Trustees member
  • 1999 Susan Collins, U.S. Senator, Maine
  • 1998 Richard MacPherson
  • 1997 Marvin Wachman, Ph.D.
  • 1996 Olympia Snowe, U.S. Senator, Maine 
  • 1995 Judith Isaacson
  • 1994 Rev. John Brooks
  • 1993 Thomas Andrews
  • 1992 Dorothy Cotton
  • 1991 Marie Gadsden, Ph.D.
  • 1990 George Mitchell 
  • 1989 Andrew McGuire
  • 1988 Dr. David Matthews
  • 1987 Dodge Morgan
  • 1986 Douglas Edwards
  • 1985 Assoc. Justice Caroline D. Glassman, Maine Supreme Judicial Court
  • 1984 Honorable Joseph E. Brennan, Governor of Maine
  • 1983 Arthur Elliott Levine, Ph.D., President, Bradford College (Bradford, MA)
  • 1982 James Russell Wiggins, Editor and Publisher, Ellsworth American
  • 1981 Honorable William S. Cohen, U.S. Senator, Maine
  • 1980 William J. Caldwell, Columnist, Portland Press Herald & Maine Sunday Telegram
  • 1979 F. Stephen Larrabee, Ph.D., National Security Council
  • 1978 Benjamin M. Ziegler, Ph.D., Educator, Amherst College
  • 1977 Honorable Sherry Huber
  • 1976 Dr. Elsa M. Meder
  • 1975 Dr. Scott Nearing, Economist, Farmer, and Author
  • 1974 Reverend Paul C. Reinert, President, St. Louis University
  • 1973 Dr. Kenneth E. Eble
  • 1972 Dr. Richard Weigle, President, Saint John’s College (Annapolis, Maryland)
  • 1971 The Honorable Kenneth M. Curtis
  • 1970 The Honorable James L. Farmer, A.B., B.D., Assistant Secretrary, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare
  • 1969 The Honorable Frank Licht A.B., and L.L.D., Governor of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation
  • 1968 Mr. Edwin D. Canham, Editor-in-Chief, Christian Science Monitor
  • 1967 Dr. Donald M. MacKenzie, President, Park College (Parkville, Missouri)
  • 1966 Rev. Bernard Haring, Department of Religious Studies, Brown University
  • 1965 His Excellency The Most Reverand Ernest Primeau, Bishop of Manchester
  • 1964 Dr. John W. McDeVitt, Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus
  • 1963 Dr. Philip Lambert
  • 1962 Father Juvenal Lawlor
  • 1961 Rev. Edward V. Stanford
  • 1960 Reverend Msgr. Robert J. White
  • 1959 Mr. William B. Mahoney
  • 1958 Reverend Mark Franck
  • 1957 Dr. Harry Doyle
  • 1956 Reverend Kevin Kidd
  • 1955 Reverend Fernand Porter
  • 1954 His Excellency The Most Reverend Daniel J. Feeney

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