'CNN Hero' to address new Behrend graduates on May 5

College will award 632 degrees at May 5 program
A portrait of Dr. Ala Stanford, founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium and a 2021 Top 10 CNN Hero.

Dr. Ala Stanford, founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, will give the commencement address at Penn State Behrend's spring commencement ceremony on May 5.

Credit: Photo provided

ERIE, Pa. — Dr. Ala Stanford, a health policy adviser who was named a "Top 10 CNN Hero" in 2021, will give the commencement address at Penn State Behrend’s spring commencement ceremony on Friday, May 5. The program will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Erie Insurance Arena.

Stanford began her college career at Behrend. She would later earn degrees from Penn State’s Eberly College of Science and the Penn State College of Medicine.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Stanford created the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, mobilizing hundreds of health care professionals to bring testing — and, later, vaccinations — to thousands of residents in Philadelphia’s minority neighborhoods. In 2021, she expanded the consortium’s scope, creating the Dr. Ala Stanford Center for Health Equity.

She later served as a regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where she worked to advance equity in all aspects of health care in five states and the District of Columbia.

In November, she was named a Penn State Alumni Fellow — the highest award given by the Penn State Alumni Association.

“As a leader, Dr. Stanford is nothing short of extraordinary — she steps forward with solutions in times of crisis and advocates fiercely for those among us who are most often overlooked,” Behrend Chancellor Ralph Ford said. “She is a true role model for our students as they prepare to become future leaders in their own fields.”

Stanford will address Behrend’s newest graduates, who had a unique collegiate experience: Most had completed just one semester before COVID restrictions and social-distancing requirements forced them into a remote-learning environment.

This year’s commencement program will be a celebration of academic success, but also of the class’s resiliency and adaptability. A total of 632 degrees will be awarded.

The graduates will be led onto the arena floor by student marshals – the students with the highest grade-point average in each of Behrend’s academic schools. This year’s student marshals are:

  • Hannah Gampe, of Tyrone, who will represent the School of Science.
  • Catlin Lowes, of Harborcreek Township, who will represent the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.
  • Zoe Mouchantaf, who will represent the Schreyer Honors College.
  • Ryan Scott, of Erie, who will represent the Black School of Business.
  • Zachary Vandervort, of Reynoldsville, who will represent the School of Engineering.

To learn more about Penn State Behrend’s spring commencement, or to watch a livestream of the ceremony, visit behrend.psu.edu.