Knox College announced today that Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, will be the speaker at the 2021 Commencement exercises in June.
Ezike, the first Black woman appointed to lead the 143-year-old state agency, has been at the forefront of Illinois’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing steadfast leadership and expertise. A board-certified internist and pediatrician, she also is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Rush Medical College in Chicago.
“Dr. Ezike has become a familiar and respected face for Illinois, and has also been recognized nationally, as a result of her exceptional leadership in managing pandemic response and reporting,” said Teresa Amott, President of Knox College. “We are honored that she has agreed to speak at our Commencement and provide words of wisdom and perspective to the class of 2021, who are graduating in these unprecedented times.”
Before joining the IDPH, Ezike worked for the Cook County (Illinois) Department of Public Health for 15 years and served as medical director at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. She also served as medical director at Austin Health Center in Chicago, delivered inpatient care at Stroger Hospital in Chicago, and provided primary and preventive care in community and school-based clinics.
She is a nationally recognized expert in healthcare within juvenile detention and justice systems. A graduate of Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, Ezike is a certified correctional health professional and diplomate of both the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Pediatrics.
She has received numerous awards, including the 2020 Lester H. McKeever Individual Service Award from the Chicago Urban League and the Health Innovator Award from Erie Family Health Center in Chicago. Chicago Magazine named her as one of 2020’s Chicagoans of the Year.
An advocate for maintaining work-life balance, particularly in challenging times, Ezike is an avid tennis player and reader, and she is fluent in Spanish and French.
Ezike joins the list of distinguished individuals who have spoken at Knox College Commencement exercises, including Shedd Aquarium CEO Bridget Coughlin '94, actress and philanthropist Eva Longoria, U.S. Senator Richard Durbin, journalist William Whitaker, poet Natasha Trethewey, Brigadier General Mark Martins, then-U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, comedian Stephen Colbert, and then-Senator Barack Obama.
Commencement exercises for the Class of 2021 are planned for Saturday, June 5, and will be split into two sessions—a morning session and an afternoon session—to allow for a limited number of guests. Knox College continues to monitor health metrics and will make adjustments to plans as needed to ensure the safety and well-being of our extended community.
About Knox College
Knox College and the city of Galesburg, Illinois, were founded by a group of pioneers from upstate New York, led by the Rev. George Washington Gale, after whom the city was named. The Illinois Legislature approved Knox College's charter on February 15, 1837. Among the members of the General Assembly was Abraham Lincoln, who would later rise to national prominence in the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates, one of which was held at Knox's Old Main building. Today, Old Main is the sole remaining site from the historic debates. A nationally ranked liberal arts college, Knox has 1,200 students from 45 states and 49 countries, more than 60 courses of study, 39 academic majors, and 49 minors. Knox also is one of the 40 colleges listed in the book Colleges That Change Lives by former New York Times education editor Loren Pope.