Pitt announced two speakers Wednesday for the separate graduate and undergraduate commencement ceremonies: CEO of CVS Health Larry J. Merlo and actress S. Epatha Merkerson, respectively.
Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Health, will speak at the graduate student commencement convocation April 29, at 4 p.m. in the Petersen Events Center. Merkerson — an Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning actress, best known for playing Lt. Anita Van Buren on “Law and Order” — will take the microphone the next day at the undergraduate ceremony April 30, at 1 p.m.
This will be the first year Pitt holds separate commencement ceremonies for graduates and undergraduates. Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said the separation will make the ceremonies more “personal and engaging.”
“Our undergraduate and graduate ceremonies, while occurring on different days, will share one unchanging goal: to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduating students,” he said in a press release.
Merlo, a 1978 Pitt Pharmacy graduate, was elected to Pitt’s Board of Trustees in 2013 and was named the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Fellow, which recognizes alumni who have records of high professional achievement and community service. After becoming CEO of CVS in 2011, Merlo announced in 2014 the company would stop selling tobacco products in its more than 7,600 stores, making it the first national pharmacy chain to do so.
Merkerson, who acted on “Law and Order” from 1993 to 2010, also performed in the 2005 film “Lackawanna Blues” and is currently starring in “Chicago Med,” a TV medical drama on NBC. For her performance as Rachel Crosby in “Lackawanna Blues” — a TV movie about boarding house tenants in a blue-collar town — she won Golden Globe, Emmy and Screen Actors Guild awards. Before her successful 40-year career as an actress, she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Wayne State University in 1978.