PULLMAN – A football player/philanthropist, a biosciences CEO and a health alliance director will be the speakers at WSU Pullman commencement ceremonies Saturday, May 8, at Beasley coliseum.

Three ceremonies will be held for more than 2,300 undergraduate and graduate students who are expected to participate in WSU’s 114th spring commencement.

At 8 a.m. graduates from the College of Business and College of Education will receive their degrees. Entrepreneur, philanthropist and football player Craig Juntunen will be the featured speaker. 

Juntunen earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Idaho, where he was a quarterback. Upon completion of his degree, he played professionally in the Canadian Football League. Juntunen has been inducted into the University of Idaho Hall of Fame and the Idaho Athletic Hall of Fame.

He later started his business career in Silicon Valley, where he ran a human capital company for 18 years. The company employed over 150 people and had four national locations. He sold the business in 1995 and, with his wife, Kathi, started the Juntunen Foundation, a private family foundation.

In 2003, Juntunen joined the football staff at Arizona State University as director of player development and assistant to the head coach. During his three seasons with ASU his responsibility was to provoke positive change and transform the organization through interactions with the players and the staff.

As an advocate for international adoption, Juntunen also founded Chances for Children in 2006, a public foundation dedicated to addressing the orphan epidemic in Haiti. He and his wife have adopted three children from Haiti –Amelec, Esperancia and Quinn—, an experience he wrote about in his book “Both Ends Burning: My Story of Adopting Three Children from Haiti” (Outskirts Press 2009).

At the 11:30 a.m. ceremony, Mickey Urdea, WSU alumnus (Ph.D biochemistry), co-founder, chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Tethys Bioscience, will address graduates in the colleges of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences; Engineering and Architecture; Nursing; Pharmacy; Sciences; and Veterinary Medicine.

In the early 1980s, Urdea was one of the first employees at Chiron, where he directed the nucleic acids chemistry group and began the molecular diagnostics efforts. He led the development of quantitative RNA and DNA assays, including the introduction of the first HIV and HCV viral load tests. He became head of the nucleic acid diagnostics business unit at Chiron.

In 1998, he joined Bayer Diagnostics as senior vice president of nucleic acid diagnostics and acting-chief scientific officer of Bayer Diagnostics. He left Bayer in 2000 and co-founded Tethys Bioscience in 2002.
A published author of more than 185 articles and book chapters, Urdea is also an inventor and has more than 100 issued and pending patents.

Lisa Cohen, executive director of Washington Global Health Alliance, will speak at the 3 p.m. ceremony for graduates from the College of Liberal Arts and the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.

Cohen’s career includes 25 years in journalism as a newsroom manager for Seattle television affiliates KOMO, KING, KIRO and KCPQ, and as a freelancer documentary and special projects producer for CBS “60 Minutes” and “The Early Show”. She has also taught an adjunct journalism at the University of Washington, where she earned degrees in broadcast journalism and international communications.

She serves on the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association Board, the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee for the Seattle Central Community Colleges and advisory boards for Global Washington, Seattle Biomed’s BioQuest program, the Queensland-Washington Alliance and Global Health Nexus, Seattle.

Cohen has also served as interim executive director for Seattle CityClub and as communication advisor for Gov. Christine Gregoire during the 2004 election.

WSU President Elson S. Floyd will preside at all three ceremonies.

Commencement ceremonies are open to the public; no tickets are required.

For those unable to attend the event, the commencement ceremonies will also be videostreamed at www.experience.wsu.edu.

Various colleges, departments and programs will be holding receptions for their graduates in conjunction with Saturday’s commencement ceremonies, visit www.commencement.wsu.edu  for more information. A listing of those and other commencement-related events is available at http://visitor.wsu.edu/.