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Bill and Melinda Gates will be the 2014 Commencement speakers at Stanford

Frederic Courbet / Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Bill and Melinda Gates speak with Mwajua Saidi, whose son, Rashidi, is participating in the RTS,S malaria vaccine trial in Mapinga, Tanzania. The Gateses will be the Commencement speakers on June 15 at Stanford.

Husband and wife philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates will share the podium as the 2014 Commencement speakers at Stanford University.

Stanford's 123rd Commencement Weekend, scheduled for June 13-15, will also feature a Class Day lecture by Associate Professor of Communication Fred Turner and a Baccalaureate address by Zen Buddhist priest and poet Norman Fischer.

Bill and Melinda Gates

Bill and Melinda Gates are the founders and co-chairs of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As leaders of the world's largest private foundation and self-defined "impatient optimists," Bill and Melinda work to help all people lead healthy, productive lives by collaborating with partner organizations worldwide to tackle critical problems in three core areas. The Global Development Program works to help the world's poorest people lift themselves out of hunger and poverty. The Global Health Program aims to harness advances in science and technology to save lives in developing countries. And the United States Program works to improve U.S. high school and postsecondary education.

"Sharing a mutual commitment to a better world, Bill and Melinda Gates have taken on some of the planet's toughest challenges. This boldness is an ethos that we also embody at Stanford, and one we seek to instill in our graduates," said Stanford President John Hennessy. "The Gates have transcended business success and are now taking aim at our most complex problems – extreme poverty, global health, and failures in our education system. Together, their shared vision has created one of the world's most influential philanthropic organizations. Our graduates will benefit immensely by hearing from these leaders and their dedication to improving society and the human condition."

"Bill and Melinda Gates' life work aligns with not only the entrepreneurial and creative spirit of Stanford, but also the Class of 2014's desire to use their abilities and resources to positively impact the world. Fundamentally transforming technology and humanitarianism, Bill and Melinda demonstrate the tremendous power of combining innovative solutions with a deep sense of compassion," said Senior Class Presidents Dhruv Amin, Mary Raddawi, Lawrence Nell and Maya Humes.

Bill Gates has dedicated significant time to the foundation's work to rid the world of polio. Immunization efforts have brought polio to the brink of eradication, saving more than 10 million children from paralysis. Polio remains endemic in just three countries – Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The foundation is a core supporter of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and Bill remains a vocal advocate for the need to complete the task before the world community to eradicate this disease forever.

Melinda Gates made headlines by spearheading the London Summit on Family Planning in July 2012. She continues to champion the importance of easily available family-planning information and services, with the goal of delivering contraceptives to an additional 120 million women in developing countries by 2020. Melinda is also focused on promoting evidence-based policy and programs that will put power into the hands of women and girls so they can drive the change they want for themselves and their families. Doing so will be the source of transformational improvements in the health and prosperity of whole societies.

With a stated commitment to rigor, measurement and smart risk-taking, Bill and Melinda remain committed to lifting the burden of poverty, hunger and disease that prevents millions of people from realizing their full potential.

Bill and Melinda Gates live in Seattle, Wash. The Gateses have three children.

Class Day lecture

A Commencement Weekend tradition for more than three decades, Class Day features a "final lecture" from a renowned Stanford professor. This year, the lecture will be delivered by Fred Turner, associate professor of communication. Turner directs one of the most popular undergraduate major programs on campus, the Program in Science, Technology and Society.

Turner teaches courses on Digital Journalism, Digital Media and Society, Computers, Information Ideology and American Culture Since World War II, Media Culture and Society, and Writing and Reporting the News. Turner's research interests include cyberculture, computational journalism, new media and multimedia.

"Professor Turner's engaging style of teaching has captivated the minds of many members of the Class of 2014 throughout our time at Stanford," the class presidents said.  "His unique, dynamic explorations of media and culture boldly challenge and develop our understanding of our role in modern society. Professor Turner will be able to provide great insight into how we can all become thoughtful and effective citizens of the world in our journey after college."

Turner is the author of three books: The Democratic Surround: Multimedia and American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties (University of Chicago Press, 2014); From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism (University of Chicago Press, 2006); and Echoes of Combat: The Vietnam War in American Memory (Anchor/Doubleday, 1996; 2nd ed., University of Minnesota Press, 2001). Before coming to Stanford in 2003, he taught communication at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and MIT's Sloan School of Management. He also worked for 10 years as a journalist. He holds a doctorate    from the University of California-San Diego, a master's degree from Columbia University and a bachelor's degree from Brown University. 

Baccalaureate speaker

Speaking at the Baccalaureate ceremony will be Norman Fischer, a Zen Buddhist priest and poet who founded the Everyday Zen Foundation and was previously the abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, the oldest and largest Buddhist institution in the West.

Fischer is a prolific author and teacher known for his informality, openness and eclecticism. His Everyday Zen Foundation, a network of spiritual communities and projects in the United States, Mexico and Canada, brings Zen practice to contemporary professions and institutions, including the law, caring for the dying, business and the tech world. He is also co-founder, with the late Rabbi Alan Lew, of Makor Or, a Jewish meditation center in San Francisco.

A graduate of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, Fischer began publishing poetry in the late 1970s as part of a San Francisco Bay Area group of experimental writers. The latest of his 15 collections are Conflict (Chax Press 2012) and The Strugglers (Singing Horse Press, 2013).  His translation of the Hebrew psalms, Opening to You, published by Viking Compass in 2002, is widely read in both Jewish and Christian circles. His most recent prose works are Sailing Home: Using the Wisdom of Homer's Odyssey to Navigate Life's Perils and Pitfalls (Simon and Schuster 2008) and Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong (Shambhala 2013). 

"We're very excited that Norman Fischer has agreed to be this year's Baccalaureate speaker. He's been active in interfaith dialogue far beyond his own tradition as well as adapting Buddhist teachings to the domains of business and law," said Scotty McLennan, Stanford's dean for religious life. "For example, Senior Associate Dean for Religious Life Patricia Karlin-Neumann has appreciated his beautiful translation of the psalms, which we have used during Sunday services at Memorial Church, and I have noted his regular workshops for business people at the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Marin. I expect him to widen graduates' perspectives while providing a lot of depth for their life after Stanford."

The class presidents added: "We are excited to welcome the multitalented Norman Fischer as the Class of 2014's Baccalaureate speaker. His emphasis on accessibility, openness and interfaith dialogue present a model for practicing spirituality and promoting peace in the modern world. We are looking forward to hearing his exceptional story and gaining valuable perspective on how to include these same values in our own lives."

Stanford's 123rd Commencement, Class Day lecture and Baccalaureate ceremony are part of a celebration for graduates, their families and friends, and members of the Stanford community. The Baccalaureate ceremony will be held on the Main Quad and the Class Day lecture will be held in Maples Pavilion, both on Saturday, June 14. Commencement will be held in the Stanford Stadium on Sunday, June 15.

Media Contact

Lisa Lapin, University Communications: (650) 725-8396, lapin@stanford.edu,