Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will deliver the University of Michigan’s Spring Commencement address for the Ann Arbor campus May 4 at Michigan Stadium. She will be the sixth sitting governor to deliver a commencement address in the past 40 years.
Randy Schekman, a Nobel Prize winner and professor of cell and developmental biology at the University of California, Berkeley, will deliver the address for the Rackham Graduate Exercises on May 3, for those receiving master’s or doctoral degrees through the Rackham Graduate School.
Honorary degree recipients for Spring Commencement will be recommended to the Board of Regents at its March 28 meeting.
Elected Michigan’s 49th governor in November 2018, Whitmer previously served in the state House of Representatives from 2001-06, and the state Senate from 2006-15.
As Senate Democratic Leader, Whitmer negotiated with Republicans to expand health coverage to more than 680,000 residents through the state’s Medicaid expansion. She also brought workers, labor unions and businesses together to fight Michigan’s right-to-work law.
During her time in the Legislature, Whitmer negotiated an increase in the minimum wage with a cost-of-living adjustment, and she worked with both parties on the state’s School Aid Fund.
A lifelong Michigander, Whitmer grew up in Grand Rapids and East Lansing. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the MSU College of Law, where she graduated magna cum laude.
In addition to her legislative experience, Whitmer taught at U-M and MSU, and in 2016 she began her tenure as interim Ingham County prosecutor. In that role, she established a new Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit, sped up the rehabilitation of non-violent first-time offenders, and asked the Michigan State Police to investigate the integrity of the county’s evidence room.
At Berkeley, Schekman’s laboratory investigates the mechanism of membrane protein traffic in the secretory pathway in eukaryotic cells. His approach began with a genetic and biochemical dissection of the secretory pathway in the yeast, S.cerevisiae. His lab discovered the genes and proteins that assemble proteins into the endoplasmic reticulum membrane, package proteins into coated transport vesicles and deliver vesicles by fusion at a target membrane.
The genes and proteins his lab discovered in yeast have counterparts in all eukaryotes and have been implicated in several human genetic diseases. The evolutionary conservation of the pathway discovered in Schekman’s lab encouraged the biotechnology industry to use yeast as a platform for the production of clinically important human secreted proteins.
An investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Schekman has received several awards, including the Gairdner International Award, the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, and the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, which he shared with James Rothman and Thomas Südhof.