Wittenberg University Senior Class Selects Livestrong President & CEO Doug Ulman As 2011 Commencement Speaker
Springfield, Ohio – As a three-time cancer survivor, Doug Ulman has dedicated his life to being a vehicle of hope for individuals and families facing a disease that is expected to affect more than 1.5 million in 2011 alone. Ulman’s life’s work aligns perfectly with Wittenberg’s own commitment of encouraging students to serve beyond themselves, and it made Ulman the clear choice to address the class of 2011 during the university’s 166th Commencement Exercises, May 14.
“Doug Ulman as our graduation speaker exemplifies Wittenberg University’s motto, Having Light We Pass It On To Others,” said Heather DeSantis, senior class president, whose father was diagnosed with lung cancer during the summer of her senior year of high school. He passed away on Christmas Day six months later, and since then, DeSantis said she has consistently “advocated for the often marginalized.
“It is my hope that my classmates will feel inspired to leave their mark, asking themselves how can I make a difference,” she said. “Cancer is not prejudice to race, gender, or socioeconomic status, and I value Mr. Ulman’s endless work for a cause that is rooted in each of us.”
After overcoming chondrosarcoma his sophomore year at Brown and malignant melanoma twice since, Ulman and his family founded the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing support, education and resources to young adults, their families and friends who are affected by cancer. He served as executive director of the Ulman Cancer Fund for four years before joining Livestrong as director of survivorship in 2001. In his current role as president and chief executive officer, Ulman is ultimately responsible for the strategic vision and direction of Livestrong.
Originally founded in 1997 as the Lance Armstrong Foundation after the world-renowned cancer survivor and cyclist, Livestrong has been working to improve the lives of people affected by cancer, the world’s leading cause of death. Based in Austin, Texas, Livestrong “empowers the cancer community to address the unmet needs of cancer survivors,” states the organization’s website. By encouraging collaboration, knowledge-sharing and partnership, the organization also seeks “to develop evidence-based solutions to address both the common and unique problems survivors are facing around the world.”
In 2009, the organization launched its Livestrong Global Cancer Campaign, which culminated in the organization’s landmark Global Cancer Summit that same year. The event united more than 500 world leaders, corporations, non-governmental organizations and advocates, all of whom wanted to reduce the burden of cancer in their own communities.
During his work with Livestrong, Ulman has earned numerous awards for his leadership and community service. In 2002, he was selected from more than 20,000 individuals to appear on 15 million-plus boxes of Wheaties Energy Crunch as an American Everyday Hero. A year later, Ulman was selected as the Austin Under-40 award winner in the healthcare category, and in 2005, both the American Psychosocial Oncology Society and the Association of Oncology Social Workers honored him. Additionally, Ulman landed on the Non-Profit Times Power and Influence Top 50 for 2009, an honor bestowed to the top 50 non-profit executives.
National media outlets have repeatedly sought out Ulman, including CNN, ABC News, NBC Nightly News, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, and he is a frequent presenter to corporations, civic organizations, schools and universities, discussing such areas as cancer, philanthropy, grassroots movements, social change and social media. In fact, more than 1 million fans regularly follow him on Twitter.
Ulman is the “inspirational figure behind the most entrepreneurial foundation in cancer, a critically important health-care movement that helped win $3 billion in new funds for cancer research and prevention in Texas alone,” according to writer Chuck Salter in his October 2010 cover story on LIvestrong for Fast Company. “Livestrong has been a catalyst for better cancer care and education across the globe,” Salter continued, adding that the organization’s “help line, guidebooks, and website helped more than 400,000 people last year,” and that “its social-media efforts reach about 3 million supporters.”
Serving on several boards nationally, Ulman recently completed a four-year term as chair of the National Cancer Institute Director’s Consumer Liaison Group. He also sits on the executive board of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults and is a founder of LIvestrong’s Young Adult Alliance.
Following his three cancer diagnoses and subsequent treatments, Ulman returned to Brown where he was a standout athlete on the soccer field, helping the university to three Ivy League Championships in four years. A runner, he has also participated in multiple marathons, including the Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race, and both the New York City and Boston marathons.
During Wittenberg’s Commencement ceremony, Ulman will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters.
Written By: Karen Gerboth