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David Ho Chosen to Address Graduates at Commencement

Courtesy of the MIT News Office
David D. Ho

By FrankDabek
News Editor

David D. Ho, an AIDS researcher and Time magazine's man of the year for 1996, has been chosen to deliver this year's commencement address.

"Dr. Ho has set very worthwhile goals for his professional life and is realizing them. His work demonstrates the critical importance of science to the solution of problems such as AIDS that plague our society," said President Charles M. Vest.

Ho was born in Taiwan in 1952 and emigrated to the United States in 1965 with his family. He attended MIT for one year and then transferred to the California Institute of Technology, where he completed his undergraduate coursework. He earned an M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1978. He is currently the director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, one of the largest private AIDS research centers in the country.

Vest said that he is proud to claim Ho as a graduate of the joint MIT-Harvard Division of Health Science andTechnology. "His work also should remind us all of the great benefits America reaps from opening our doors, institutions, and opportunities to immigrants," he added.

Gayle M. Gallagher, director of conference services and events, and a member of the commencement committee, said that the speaker selection process began in the late fall. The group solicited "suggestions from the community: the faulty, students, and staff," she said.

"There is a subgroup of the commencement committee that assembles" the names to be considered, she said. However, the choice of speaker is "ultimately Dr. Vest's decision," she said.

Ho was one of the first scientists to begin researching AIDS and HIV. As a resident at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles he came in contact with some of the first reported cases of AIDS.

Ho developed AIDS treatment

Ho made a name for himself with his attempts to eliminate the HIV virus from infected individuals, a prospect previously considered implausible. He developed a new treatment based on the idea of administering a mixture of drugs that can apparently overpower the virus.

Due in part to research such as this, Time reported that, "Ho, working alone or in concert with others, fundamentally changed the way scientists looked at the AIDS virus."

Besides developing new treatment techniques, Ho was also among the first to isolate the virus and to detect it in the nervous system and in semen.

Gallagher said that the process of picking a commencement speaker occurs in the fall.

"We have 40 or 50" names to consider when the process begins, she said. Gallagher noted that choice of commencement speaker is "a subject about which a lot of people have an opinion."

A subgroup of the commencement committee takes that list and creates a smaller list which is presented to the president's office. The president's office takes responsibility after the short list is composed.

Previous commencement speakers include United Nations Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan SM '72, who spoke at the 1997 Commencement and Vice President Al Gore in spoke in 1996.

Dan McGuire contributed to the reporting of this story