Education trailblazers to address DKU’s Class of 2022 commencement

Duke University President Emeritus Richard H. Brodhead and Chinese higher education innovator Yigong Shi will deliver the keynote speeches at this year’s Duke Kunshan University commencement, the first ever for its undergraduate program.

Westlake University founding president Shi is set to address Class of 2022 undergraduate and graduate students at the ceremony in Kunshan, while Brodhead will make his speech at a Durham-based event for those who cannot be in China. The undergraduates will be the first to pass through DKU’s four-year bachelor’s degree program, marking a major milestone in the university’s history.

Richard H. Brodhead

Brodhead served as the 9th Duke president and made undergraduate education, expansion of student financial aid and globalization strategic priorities during his 2004-2017 term in office. He also oversaw the openings of Duke Kunshan and the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore.

Brodhead received his B.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University, where he served as a faculty member and administrator for 32 years before being named President of Duke. A scholar of American literature and culture, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004. In addition to being Duke president emeritus, he is honorary chancellor of DKU and has lectured on American history at Duke Kunshan. He has been awarded four honorary degrees, including one from Tsinghua University.

Under Brodhead’s leadership, undergraduate education at Duke went through significant transformation, with new opportunities for internships, faculty-mentored research and academic collaborations such as Bass Connections projects, as well as housing and student life upgrades.

He also launched the signature program DukeEngage, a fully funded summer service initiative that gives Duke undergraduates the opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge in the United States and 79 countries across six continents.

“DKU remains one of the most important international educational experiments in modern times,” Brodhead said.

“This commencement is a milestone both for our students and for DKU itself. I was thrilled to address the first class of undergraduates when they arrived in 2018. I’m honored to be asked to speak to them as they graduate four years later.”

professor Shi

Biomedical professor Shi is the founding president of Westlake University in Hangzhou, China’s first non-profit, research-oriented private university, which opened in 2018.

Launching doctoral programs first, Westlake University now has three faculties, the School of Life Sciences, the School of Science and the School of Engineering, running an array of courses. Nearly 190 scientists work in the university’s network of more than 100 world-class laboratories. The university strives to cultivate high-calibre, socially responsible talent in the science and technology field. In 2022, it launched a mini undergraduate program, the Westlake University Innovation Class, enrolling only homegrown students from Zhejiang province.

After stints in the U.S., most recently as Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University, Shi returned in 2008 to his alma mater, Tsinghua University, where he led the development of its biomedical research community for a decade. He earlier obtained his Ph.D. in biophysics at Johns Hopkins University. A focus of his research has been on a form of cell death known as apoptosis, which plays an essential role in disease prevention.

A recipient of numerous awards including the Gregori Aminoff Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Future Science Prize, Shi has been elected as an honorary foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a foreign associate member of the National Academy of Sciences in the U.S.. In 2018, he resigned from his position as Vice President of Tsinghua University and devoted himself to founding Westlake University.

“I am honored to be invited to attend the commencement ceremony for Duke Kunshan University’s inaugural class of undergraduates, who have received an education that combines the strengths of East and West,” Shi said.

“It is an honor for me to witness this monumental moment for the class and the university.”

The Duke Kunshan undergraduate commencement ceremony will begin at 8.30 a.m. (China time) on Friday, May 20, 2022.

Also speaking at the event will be Duke Kunshan Chancellor Youmei Feng, Duke Kunshan Interim Executive Vice Chancellor Jennifer Francis, Duke Kunshan Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Scott MacEachern, Duke University President Vincent E. Price, Wuhan University President Xiankang Dou, and two graduating students.

“Dick Brodhead and Yigong Shi are both widely regarded for their commitment to innovation in research and education,” Francis noted. “I am delighted that they will join us as we celebrate this historic moment for DKU, and that our students and guests will have the opportunity to learn from their experiences and perspectives during the commencement ceremony.”

Feng said, “We are very proud of the Class of 2022. Even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have performed many miracles together.

“I believe the speeches by Brodhead and Shi and their amazing life experiences will bring great inspiration to the graduates, motivating them to continue in their pursuit of excellence and innovation, and to contribute to society.”

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