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Epidemiologist Beyrer tells HWS Graduates to Beware of Disinformation

GENEVA, N.Y., May 22, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- During his Commencement address at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, epidemiologist and HIV/AIDS expert Dr. Christopher Beyrer '81, Sc.D.'22 emphasized the vital role of education and critical thinking in fostering democracy, validating truth and combatting disinformation.

Beyrer, a 1981 HWS graduate, was recently named Director of the Duke University Global Health Institute and is a past president of the International AIDS Society. Reflecting on his COVID-19-related public health work, he noted that alongside "the stark inequalities" that the pandemic "so rapidly exploited and uncovered," it also brought another social ill to the forefront.

"Disinformation led millions of Americans to believe falsehoods, choose unproven (and in several cases dangerous) therapies over clinically tested and effective ones, and led millions to refuse vaccination with some of the safest and most potent vaccines we've ever had," Beyrer said.

"And this," he told graduates, "is why dealing with disinformation and misinformation, unpacking false narratives and recognizing the politicization of evidence are already a signature challenge for your generation. Critical thinking is going to matter more than ever. Your education matters more than ever."

As he concluded, Beyrer advised graduates that "to protect the truth, to protect integrity for yourself and for others.… Democracy cannot thrive in a post-truth world. Neither can nature. And neither can we.… As the saying goes, speak truth to power, and defend that truth. It's your responsibility and it's your right."

During the Commencement ceremony, Beyrer was awarded an honorary doctorate in recognition of his career as a physician and public health advocate, during which he "formed alliances with the leaders of nations and movements, and in so doing…built a global compassion for the suffering of others," as President Joyce P. Jacobsen said while conferring the degree.

During the ceremony, which marked the Bicentennial year of Hobart and William Smith, HWS awarded degrees to 506 undergraduates, 10 Master of Arts in Teaching graduates, the first cohort of 14 Master of Science in Management graduates, and one College Experience Certificate recipient.

Alongside Beyrer, HWS also awarded honorary degrees to William Smith Head Soccer Coach Aliceann Wilber P'13, L.H.D. '22, the winningest coach in Division III Women's Soccer; celebrated singer, songwriter and musician Eric Andersen '65, L.H.D. '22; and President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy L.H.D. '22, in absentia.

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SOURCE Hobart and William Smith Colleges