Dr. John R. Raymond Sr., president and CEO of the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and an important guiding voice for many during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be Lawrence University’s 2021 Commencement speaker.
Dr. Raymond will address Lawrence’s graduates in an in-person Commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. June 13 in the Banta Bowl, with health and safety protocols in place.
The resiliency shown by young people through the pandemic will be part of his message, said Dr. Raymond, who oversees a Milwaukee-based School of Medicine with regional campuses in Green Bay and Wausau, a School of Pharmacy, and a Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences—encompassing a total enrollment of almost 1,500 students.
“The resiliency that students show is an example for the rest of us about how to be flexible when we face challenges, as well as how to persevere through our social networks, through finding our passion for making a difference, and for being innovative under duress,” he said. “In general, I believe that students and young people are more resilient than individuals who have greater decision-making responsibilities, so it has been refreshing for me to be recharged and redirected by our students, who have been thinking differently about opportunities during the pandemic.”
Dr. Raymond, who became MCW’s sixth president in 2010, has been among the leading medical voices in Wisconsin over the past year, providing advice and updates throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. He said it’s not a role he necessarily sought, but he opportunely stepped up when disinformation and confusion were hindering efforts to get needed information to citizens, employers, and elected officials.
“We needed multiple voices in science and medicine to share well-curated information so that individuals, businesses, and communities could make critical decisions,” he said.
Among those who leaned into Dr. Raymond’s advice and insights were the members of the Lawrence Pandemic Planning Team. They talked frequently with Dr. Raymond, as well as with ThedaCare President and CEO Dr. Imran Andrabi, as decisions were made about going to remote classes in the spring of 2020, closing campus to the public, establishing Honor the Pledge protocols, and bringing nearly 60% of the students back to campus in the fall.
Dr. Raymond provided high-level insight into the spread of the virus in Wisconsin, how hospitals and others in the medical community were responding, and how institutions such as Lawrence could help keep their communities safe. As a president of a health sciences university, he also brought an important educational perspective.
“When the pandemic first began, there were few clear voices that provided direction,” Lawrence President Mark Burstein said. “John was there ready to offer insight and essential health context for the decisions that faced Lawrence. He not only stayed current with the constant updates in research and policy changes, he also saw each decision through the lens of leading an academic community himself.”
While not all Lawrence students are on campus during Spring Term, all members of the senior class are being invited back to campus to participate in the Commencement ceremony. Each graduate can have up to two guests. The ceremony is being moved from its usual location on Main Hall Green to the Banta Bowl to accommodate health and safety protocols.
It will be streamed live via Lawrence’s YouTube channel.
“As we end our last year at Lawrence, together, I am deeply thankful for your leadership of our learning community,” Burstein said in a letter to seniors announcing Commencement plans. “I am particularly grateful for your commitment to Honor the Pledge, which has allowed us to consider an in-person celebration of your time here.”
As part of the ceremony, Dr. Raymond will receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
At MCW, Dr. Raymond leads a health sciences university, including Wisconsin’s only private medical school, with a total operating budget of about $1.2 billion. Approximately 50 percent of Wisconsin’s practicing physicians graduated from MCW or trained at the Medical College of Wisconsin Affiliated Hospitals. MCW is ranked in the top third of all medical schools nationwide for National Institutes of Health research funding.
A practicing nephrologist, Dr. Raymond also is a medical researcher studying the basic mechanisms of kidney cell function. He received his undergraduate and medical degrees with honors from The Ohio State University and performed his internship, residency, chief residency, and nephrology fellowship training at Duke University Medical Center.
It’s fitting, Burstein said, that this year’s Commencement speaker is someone steeped in science and medicine and who played such an important role in helping to guide Lawrence leadership through the uncertainties of a once-in-a-century crisis.
“John’s advice, counsel, and good common sense provided and continues to provide an invaluable resource for the Lawrence community,” Burstein said. “I look forward to welcoming him to campus for our Commencement celebration.”