University of Michigan-Dearborn will again hold one winter commencement ceremony for all graduates at U-M’s Crisler Center in Ann Arbor. The ceremony will be held Sunday, April 30, at 10 a.m., with the student processional beginning at 9:30 a.m.
This marks the second consecutive year the winter ceremony has been held at Crisler Center to better accommodate a growing number of winter graduates and their families. Graduates are eligible to receive up to eight guest tickets, and all guests—including children over the age of two—need a ticket to attend.
Dr. James R. Downing (’77 B.S.), president and CEO of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, will be the keynote speaker and Shirley R. Stancato, president and CEO of New Detroit, will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree during the ceremony. Student Victor Jimenez, alumnus Laurie Harbour (’92 B.S.A.) and Professor of Educational Technology Mesut Duran also will give remarks.
James R. Downing, M.D., is president and chief executive officer of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. As the architect of a new six-year strategic plan, he is leading the expansion of St. Jude clinical care and research programs in Memphis and around the globe.
A renowned leader in pediatric cancer research, Downing focuses his work on understanding the genetic basis of cancer and using that information to improve the treatment of children with cancer. He was instrumental in launching the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project (PCGP), which has sequenced the normal and cancer genomes of more than 800 young cancer patients with some of the least understood and most aggressive tumors. The project made TIME magazine’s 2012 list of top 10 medical breakthroughs. In 2013, he was a finalist for TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. The PCGP has produced groundbreaking discoveries in brain tumors, leukemia, a cancer of the peripheral nervous system, an eye tumor and the degenerative disorder commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The project has also produced new computational tools that benefit the broader field of genomic medicine.
Downing is a Detroit native who earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan-Dearborn in 1977 and later earned his medical degree from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He joined St. Jude in 1986 after training in anatomic pathology at Washington University in St. Louis and completing a fellowship in hematopathology at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Prior to taking the helm of St. Jude, Downing served as the institution’s scientific and deputy director and as an executive vice president in the organization. He became the hospital’s sixth chief executive officer July 15, 2014.
For his work, Downing has received numerous honors, including the Association for Molecular Pathology Award for Excellence in Molecular Diagnostics, which recognizes lifetime, pioneering achievement, particularly in regard to molecular diagnostics and molecular medicine. In 2013, he was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences (now known as National Academy of Medicine), and in 2016, he was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was recently awarded the 2017 Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Prize. In addition, Downing served on a Blue Ribbon Panel to advise former Vice President Joe Biden’s National Cancer Moonshot Initiative through the National Cancer Institute.
Downing has been supported throughout his career by his wife, Mariea. They are the proud parents of three children, Melissa, Suzy and Michael, and have four grandchildren, Jude, Lucy, Charlie and Maggie.
Shirley R. Stancato is president and chief executive officer of New Detroit, southeastern Michigan’s leadership coalition devoted solely to race relations, serving as an essential forum for discussion and advocacy for racial equity. Under Stancato’s leadership, New Detroit has developed and launched a series of initiatives to further its mission to provide solutions to promote racial equity in the region.
A lifelong Detroiter, Stancato worked for what is now Chase Bank and its predecessor companies for more than 30 years, rising to the position of senior vice president before joining New Detroit in 1999. Stancato earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wayne State University.
As the leader of New Detroit and a member of UM-Dearborn’s Citizens Advisory Committee, Stancato has helped to create important and enduring partnerships through which the university has enhanced its effectiveness and impact in metropolitan Detroit. She has served as a commencement speaker for the campus, and she has advocated throughout the Detroit community about the value of the metropolitan mission that is pursued by the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
Stancato is a board member of the Coleman A. Young Foundation, Excellent Schools Detroit, Fifth Third Bank – Eastern Michigan, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, DTE Energy Community Advisory Council, Wayne State University President’s Community Advisory Group, Detroit Zoological Commission, and the Statewide Educational Achievement Authority.
Stancato has received awards and recognition including a 2003 Woman of Achievement by the Anti-Defamation League, a 2003 Regional Power Broker by Crain’s Detroit Business, and appeared in Who’s Who In Black Detroit – the Inaugural Edition, 2006. In 2007, she received a Distinguished Leadership Award from the Michigan Business and Professional Association, and the Idealist in Action Award from City Year Detroit. In 2008, The Detroit News named Stancato a Michiganian of the Year. In 2009, Stancato was named a Woman of Excellence by the Michigan Chronicle and received an Excellence in Leadership Award from 100 Black Men of Greater Detroit, Inc. In 2014, Stancato received the Greater Good Award from the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO – Greater Detroit). In 2015 Ms. Stancato received the inaugural Daniel H. Krichbaum Visionary Civic Leader Award (Interfaith Leadership Council) and the Michigan Delegation of the Congressional Black Caucus Champion of Justice Award. In 2016, Stancato received the Architect of Change Award from the Chauncy Glover Project, and from BMe the Vanguard Award.