December 2014 Commencement

The University of Memphis awarded 1,531 degrees at its winter commencement on Sunday, December 14, 2014 including 33 doctorates.  Ceremonies were held at 1 and 5 p.m. at FedExForum.

At the 1 p.m. commencement, graduates from the College of Arts & Sciences, College of Communication and Fine Arts, University College and Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law will received degrees.  At the 5 p.m. ceremony, the Fogelman College of Business & Economics, College of Education, Health and Human Sciences, Herff College of Engineering, Loewenberg School of Nursing, School of Public Health and Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management awarded degrees.

The featured speaker for both ceremonies was Dr. James R. Downing, president and CEO of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  He is internationally recognized for his contributions to understanding the genetic missteps driving childhood cancer.  Downing was instrumental in launching the St. Jude-Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project, the world’s largest project devoted to understanding childhood cancer.

Downing has traveled the globe presenting his research and has received numerous honors, including the Association for Molecular Pathology Award for Excellence in Molecular Diagnostics and the American Association for the Advancement of Science fellowship.  In 2013, he was nominated by TIME magazine as of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.  TIME also listed the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project among the top 100 new scientific discoveries.  Most recently, Downing was elected to the Institute of Medicine, a prestigious branch of the National Academy of Sciences.

Joining St. Jude in 1986 as an assistant member in Pathology, Downing rose through the ranks to serve as chair of the department from 1997 to 2009.  In 2004, he was appointed the institution’s executive vice president and scientific director and in 2011 was named deputy director.