National Institutes of Health director named as keynote speaker for Virginia Tech virtual commencement

New River Valley News

(Photo: Courtesy National Institutes of Health via Virginia Tech)

BLACKSBURG, VA. (WFXR) — Virginia Tech announced Friday morning the selection of National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis S. Collins M.D., Ph.D. as the keynote speaker who will address the Class of 2021 during the university’s virtual commencement ceremony.

According to the university, Dr. Collins has been a key figure in the response to COVID-19, as well as the only presidentially-appointed NIH director to serve more than one administration.

As the NIH director — a position Dr. Collins was sworn into in 2009 — school officials say Dr. Collins oversees the work of the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world, ranging from basic to clinical research.

Virginia Tech says not only is Dr. Collins one of the most recognizable faces in the fight against the pandemic, but he is the boss of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

You can watch Collins speak during Virginia Tech’s virtual ceremony on Friday, May 14 by following this link. The university scheduled the event to begin at 6:15 p.m. with a pre-ceremony, followed by commencement exercises at 6:30 p.m.

Virginia Tech previously announced the university would host both an online ceremony, as well as 15 smaller, in-person ceremonies among the various colleges to recognize the Class of 2021.

“Before becoming one of the most prominent voices during the pandemic, Collins was known for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the international Human Genome Project,” Virginia Tech said in a statement on Friday, April 9. “He served as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at NIH from 1993-2008.”

According to school officials, Collins is also an elected member of both the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences; was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007; received the National Medal of Science in 2009; was elected as a Foreign Member of the Royal Society in 2020; and was named the 50th winner of the Templeton Prize, which celebrates scientific and spiritual curiosity.

In addition to being a world-renowned scientist, Collins is reportedly a guitar player and songwriter. In fact, the university says he plays in a band with current and former NIH officials called The Affordable Rock’n’Roll Act.

For more information about commencement activities — including updates and details about how you can participate in the virtual event — visit

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