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Anthony Fauci to speak virtually during UC Irvine School of Biological Sciences commencement

Dr. Anthony Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases director, testifies before a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the coronavirus in March.
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)
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Graduation is this Saturday for more than 7,400 students at UC Irvine.

For the commencement of the UCI School of Biological Sciences, graduates learned Thursday of a surprise speaker: National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci.

All graduating students will be participating in a recorded commencement event with individual school receptions and celebrations to follow. For the UCI School of Biological Sciences, that includes hearing from Fauci and Wajdie Ahmad, an Orange County-based bioentrepreneur.

While the coronavirus pandemic has caused the university to pivot to its first remote ceremony in its 55-year-long history, the Irvine campus will be handing out 9,907 undergraduate degrees this Saturday along with 886 master’s degrees and 299 doctoral degrees. About 47% of undergraduates this year are first-generation college students, the university said.

Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, is part of the White House coronavirus task force and, in a statement sent out to students by UCI School of Biological Sciences dean Frank LaFerla, “a man who has become the voice of promise and resolve in the battle against coronavirus.”

“Several weeks ago, when we began working on the [Biological Sciences] virtual reception and procession that follows the campus commencement presentation on Saturday, we pondered ways to surprise, inspire and delight these students who deserve praise and recognition,” LaFerla said. “We recruited an inspirational commencement speaker, Wajdie Ahmad, ... and we asked ourselves if there was anything more that we could do to make this commencement memorable.”

“We sent a message to [Fauci], asking if he would consider speaking to our class of 2020. He said yes,” LaFerla said.

Fauci’s video message will be posted online following the university’s commencement activities on Saturday, LaFerla said.

The graduation ceremony, and its subsequent receptions, can be viewed at commencement.uci.edu. The recorded commencement ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. and individual receptions and celebrations will begin at 10:30 a.m.

“The class of 2020 has shown tremendous resilience and character in responding to the COVID-19 emergency and the need to learn remotely,” said UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman in a statement. “We are very proud of all they accomplished during their time with us, and we look forward to all they will achieve as they take their places as empowered and educated members of our society.”

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