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Citation for Helene Gayle

Barnard College Commencement
Monday, May 14, 2012
New York City

Helene Gayle. Esteemed Barnard alumna. Physician, educator and humanitarian. Public servant whose influence spans the globe.

From the day of your Barnard graduation, you have defined what it means to lead the way. You earned a master’s in public health from Johns Hopkins and an MD from the University of Pennsylvania, and set off to change the world, armed with that rare combination of scientific know-how and skillful diplomacy. First, at the Centers for Disease Control where for two decades you led research efforts to combat the ravages of HIV/AIDS. And then, at the Gates Foundation where you continued the fight on this and other fronts. Today, as president and CEO of CARE USA, you have intensified your focus on the women and girls who bear poverty’s greatest burden. This past year alone, CARE reached 41 million women and children with services to advance maternal health, 5 million people with increased access to better education, and more than 7 million with strategic and financial advice destined to improve livelihoods for households and villages. With you at the helm, 122 million people in 84 countries are able to envision a more promising future.

If there is a list, you top it. If there is an organization in need of your intellect and savvy, you sit on its board. President Obama himself has called on you to chair his Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS and serve on his Commission on White House Fellowships. In your own words: “Sometimes we have to do things just because they are the right things to do.”

At this moment, the right thing is clear. In an expression of limitless gratitude and pride, your College presents you with the Barnard Medal of Distinction, in honor of your vital and ongoing work. For it, we are all the richer.

Full coverage of Barnard's 2012 Commencement.