Paul Farmer to deliver 2012 Northwestern Commencement address

Tom Meyer

Paul Farmer, the subject of the 2010-2011 One Book One Northwestern selection “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” will deliver the 2012 Commencement address, NU spokesman Alan Cubbage confirmed to The Daily on Thursday night.

Farmer is a noted humanitarian, physician and anthropologist who currently serves as a professor at Harvard University and Chairman of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

He co-founded Partners in Health, a non-profit organization that provides “a preferential option for the poor in health care,” according to its website.

In Farmer’s first year in Harvard Medical School, he and fellow social justice advocate Ophelia Dahl helped create a clinic in Haiti to provide health care to a small village. Years later, Dahl and Farmer teamed up with Thomas J. White, Todd McCormack and Dr. Jim Yong Kim to found PIH.

White, who was among PIH’s first donors, was a Boston-based businessman. McCormack works for the sports, entertainment and media business IMG, a company his father founded that has represented sports figures such as Tiger Woods and Roger Federer. Kim is the president of Dartmouth College.

PIH has since expanded its work to countries such as Mexico, Rwanda and the Dominican Republic. As of 2009, the organization has established almost 50 health centers in 11 countries.

In “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” author Tracy Kidder details Farmer’s quest to provide assistance to humanitarian crises around the world and particularly in Haiti. The book was named a 2003 notable book by The New York Times.

Farmer was named by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the top global thinkers in 2011. In 2009, former U.S. President Bill Clinton appointed Farmer as the United Nations Deputy Special Envoy to Haiti.

Last year’s 153rd Commencement address was delivered by comedian Stephen Colbert, an NU alum. Colbert’s speech was widely disseminated by news outlets such as The Washington Post and Gawker.

– Tom Meyer