CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The 145th Commencement of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will take place May 14 (Saturday) at Memorial Stadium, 1402 S. First St., Champaign. The event begins at 9:30 a.m.
The featured speaker will be Illinois alumnus Jeff Huber, whose company is developing a revolutionary blood test to detect early stage cancer. Huber is the CEO of Grail, a company that builds on "ultradeep genome sequencing" technology, leading-edge computing, bioinformatics and machine learning to create unprecedented scientific understanding of cancer biology. The company was formed with a more than $100 million investment by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Illumina, ARCH Ventures, Google Ventures and Sutter Hill Ventures.
Huber said he joined the company in memory of his wife, Laura, who died of cancer after a late diagnosis. He earned his bachelor's degree in computer engineering from the U. of I. in 1989 and a master's degree from Harvard University.
Prior to joining Grail, Huber was an engineer and senior executive at Google from 2003-16. At Google, he played leadership roles in developing and improving landmark products such as Google Maps and Gmail.
Also taking place at commencement, U. of I. honorary doctor of science degrees will be awarded to Narayana Murthy, the founder and chairman emeritus of Infosys and founder of Catamaran Ventures; Jagdish Sheth, the Charles H. Kellstadt Professor of Marketing, Emory University; and Edward Taylor, the A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Chemistry Emeritus, Princeton University.
Ronald Adrian, the Regents' Professor and Ira A. Fulton Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Arizona State University, will be awarded an honorary doctor of engineering degree.
The U. of I. Alumni Association will present two awards:
Mary-Dell Chilton will receive a 2016 University of Illinois Alumni Achievement Award. A fellow and founder of Syngenta Biotechnology, Inc., Chilton will be honored for her groundbreaking research and its continued impact on agriculture. Chilton’s work pioneered the field of agricultural biotechnology and forever changed the way plant genetic research was conducted. Chilton graduated with a B.S. in chemistry in 1960 and a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1967. While a faculty member at Washington University in St. Louis during the late 1970s and early 1980s, she led a collaborative research study that produced the first transgenic (genetically engineered) plants. She led a research team at the University of Washington that was first to demonstrate that Agrobacterium transferred DNA into the genome of a host plant, changing it forever. Chilton served for a decade as the administrative head of what is now Syngenta and continued conducting research as the facility expanded. She gained the reputation as a legendary mentor of young laboratory scientists and worked with many others at Syngenta to successfully transform corn, cotton and other crops. She has authored more than 100 scientific publications.
Jane Phillips Donaldson will receive a 2016 University of Illinois Distinguished Service Award. Donaldson is a co-founder of Phillips Oppenheim, one of the first firms exclusively dedicated to providing high-level executive search service to nonprofit organizations and to helping nonprofits and their boards raise the leadership bar to advance their missions. Her firm has worked with more than 600 clients throughout the United States and abroad in its 25-year history. Previously, she spent more than 10 years in college administration as the dean of admissions at Wesleyan University, the associate director of undergraduate admissions at Yale, and as the founding director of admissions and placement at the Yale School of Management. Donaldson graduated with a B.A. in teaching of English in 1965 and an M.S. in journalism in 1967, and is a director and former chair of the University of Illinois Foundation Board. She is also a director of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, and StoryCorps. She is a former trustee of Bennington College and a past board chair of Jobs for the Future and of the Ackerman Institute for the Family.
The stadium will open at 8 a.m. The ceremony will take place regardless of the weather – unless conditions are deemed unsafe. Umbrellas are allowed in the stadium seating areas but not on the field surface; students and faculty taking part in the ceremony will be provided a rain poncho, if necessary. Guests may bring into the stadium sealed plastic water bottles up to 20 fluid ounces, and sunscreen is recommended.
Tickets are required and may be picked up Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the event services window at the Illini Union, 1401 W. Green St., Urbana.
Guest seating will be on the west side of the stadium along First Street. Parking will be available in Lot E-14 (at First Street and Kirby Avenue, Champaign) and, if weather permits, in a grass lot west of the stadium.
The wheelchair accessible entrance is Gate 24 on the south end of the stadium. Guests with a handicap permit on display may park in the north lots of State Farm Center.
Kirby Avenue will be closed from First Street to Fourth Street from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., as will First Street between Kirby Avenue and Peabody Drive.
Shuttle buses will run from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on May 14 and from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on May 15 to convocation venues throughout the campus.
A reception for graduates and their families will take place in the gardens of the President’s House, 711 W. Florida Ave., Urbana, from noon to 1:30 p.m. on May 14. Academic attire is encouraged.
All students who have earned bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and professional degrees and advanced certificates during the preceding year are honored at Commencement.
The first floor of the main library will be open from 1 to 4 p.m. May 14-15 for visitors and students to view the University Honors Bronze Tablets.
Many individual U. of I. units have scheduled additional convocation ceremonies. More information is available online.