Countdown to Commencement: Q&A with Dennis C. Liotta

May 26, 2016

The 2016 President's Distinguished Alumni Medal recipient reflects on receiving his alma mater's highest honor - and offered clear-cut advice for 2016 graduates.

Dennis C. Liotta (Ph. D., Chemistry, 1974) helped develop a component of the combination therapy that is the standard for treating patients with HIV, and has been credited with saving and extending many lives.
On Friday, June 3, he will receive the President's Distinguished Alumni Medal at the Graduate Center's Fifty-Second Commencement Exercises.

In advance of the ceremony, the recent TEDTalk speaker reflected on receiving his alma mater's highest honor - and offered clear-cut advice for 2016 graduates.
GC: What are your thoughts on receiving the President's Distinguished Alumni Medal, and on coming back to the GC?

Liotta: While it's always nice to be honored for one's work, being recognized by one's alma mater is especially satisfying. This award is particularly significant for me because CUNY has many other distinguished alumni who have made important contributions to society and it's quite an honor to be listed amongst them.
Since I haven't been in the GC since the mid--70s, I am, of course, anxious to see the physical and organizational changes in it.
How has your time at the GC helped to shape your career?

Taking courses via the GC's video system was my first experience with distance learning. It saved a lot of travel time and got me interested in technology-based teaching innovations.
What advice do you have for graduating students?

Never forget to follow your passion and to remind yourself each day that making the world a better place begins with you.
Liotta is the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Emory College of Arts and Sciences, and the Executive Director of the Emory Institute for Drug Development.