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AMA Leader James Madara, 1971 Juniata Graduate, Advises Students to Connect with Others

(Posted May 14, 2012)

Dr. James Madara, CEO of the American Medical Association and a 1971 Juniata graduate, told the largest graduating class in Juniata history to "reach out, engage. Because the universe is as big as you make it.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Dr. James Madara, CEO of the American Medical Association, after confessing he remembered not a word of the commencement speech at his own 1971 Juniata commencement, told the assembled 2012 graduating class at Juniata College's 134th commencement ceremony, Saturday, May 12, that "many of our greatest experiences in life -- both professionally and personally -- come about through our connectedness with others."

The graduating class of 384 students was awarded bachelor of arts (134) or bachelor of science degrees (250) at the ceremony today overseen by Juniata President Thomas R. Kepple Jr. The senior graduating class statistics include that 97 percent graduated in four years or less, 40 percent of seniors studied abroad, and 80 percent completed an internship, research experience or student teaching, and 30 percent completed an individualized study program.

In addition, President Kepple awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree to Henry Gibbel, CEO of Lititz Mutual Insurance Co. and a former chair of Juniata's board of trustees, and Timothy Statton, retired president of Bechtel Power Co. and current vice chair of Juniata's board of trustees, before Madara received his degree honorary degree. Madara was introduced by David Reingold, professor of chemistry.

In his commencement speech, Dr. Madara, a 1971 Juniata graduate, pointed out that when he was younger, he sought to stand alone in his opinions rather than find areas of agreement. "Cut people slack, and instead of seeking to differentiate oneself, search for common ground," Madara said. "Probe (other people's) viewpoints. Learn from them. Above all, find meaningful ways to connect."

Madara pointed out that networking can help find recent graduates a first job and continued networking can help find opportunities as a professional career evolves. "Opportunities can arise in the most unlikely places," he said. "And at the most unexpected times. So keep your options open and your network strong."

"Cut people slack, and instead of seeking to differentiate oneself, search for common ground. Probe (other people's) viewpoints. Learn from them. Above all, find meaningful ways to connect."
Dr. James Madara, CEO, American Medical Association

Madara also explained how social connectedness broadens perspective for students and other members of a social network. As an example, Madara cited a 1970s-era Juniata course called Great Epochs, which "brought together professors in physics, religion, philosophy, chemistry, biology, humanism and social science," he recalled. "The debates were fascinating. Each professor brought their own perspective. We quickly learned that even our professors had sharply different views. And rather than detract from the debate, their differences made it richer."

The AMA executive, who has spent much of his career overseeing vast health care facilities and systems, used the health care system in the United States to illustrate how social capital, used wisely, can improve society. "The current healthcare system is not a system at all; it's a fragmented collection of parts," he said. "There's a disconnect between physicians and hospitals. Between patients and insurers. Between government policy makers and industry -- Fixing a problem of this magnitude can't be accomplished by any one party alone. It requires collaboration and continuity of care."

Madara ended his speech by asking the assembled graduates to make a point of engaging as many people as possible, saying "And when I say engage, I mean something more substantial than updating your Facebook status. Instead of interacting "wall" to "wall," try face to face. And instead of exchanging pleasantries, try exchanging ideas." He went on to summarize by adding, "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to the people you know. So reach out, engage. Because the universe is as big as you make it."


The 2012 Senior Class Gift collected more than $40,450 (80 percent of the class contributed to the gift), for a pavilion to be located behind Cloister Residence Hall and Kennedy Sports and Recreation Center. In addition the gift will fund the planting of shrubs spelling "JC" on the Oneida Street hillside of Knox Stadium and renewing the Juniata seal imbedded in the plaza in front of Rosenberger Auditorium

Dr. Madara is a nationally known expert of epithelial cell biology and gastrointestinal disease and since 2011, CEO of the largest physicians association in the country.

As chief executive of the AMA, Madara oversees the medical association's efforts in improving public health, physician practice, patient care and the betterment of the American health care system. Before joining the association, Madara built a career as both a biomedical scientist and one of the nation's leading medical administrators at several nationally known university medical centers. He was chief executive officer of the University of Chicago Medical Center from 2006 to 2009. After assuming duties as CEO, he continued as a Distinguished Service Professor and dean at the University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine, an appointment he had held since 2002.

From 1997 to 2002, Madara served as professor and chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Ga.

Madara started his academic career in 1980, after completing a research fellowship at Brigham Hospital and Harvard Medical School from 1978 to 1980. He became an instructor of pathology at Harvard Medical School in 1980. He left Harvard in 1997, where he served as director of the Harvard Digestive Diseases Center, to become chair of pathology and laboratory medicine at Emory University.

Madara earned a bachelor's degree from Juniata and went on to earn a medical degree in 1975 from Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia, Pa. He is a member of numerous professional societies, including the American Society of Clinical Investigation, the American Board of Pathology, the Association of American Physicians, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Society for Investigative Pathology, the American Society for Cell Biology and the American Association of Pathologists.

Henry H. Gibbel, chairman and chief executive officer of Lititz Mutual Insurance Co., in Lititz, Pa., and a former chair of the Juniata College Board of Trustees, is a 1957 Juniata graduate.

Gibbel served as chair of the Juniata board of trustees from 2001 to 2006 and received the John C. Baker Award for Exemplary Service from the board in 2006. Gibbel has served as a trustee since 1973. He also was president of the college's National Alumni Association. In 1992 he received the Juniata College Alumni Service Award. In 2005, he received Juniata's Church College Service Award.

Gibbel and his wife, Joan, sponsored in 2002 the Henry and Joan Gibbel Award for Distinguished Teaching, which recognizes excellence in teaching among faculty members who have been at Juniata College for fewer than six years. He was inducted into the Juniata College Sports Hall of Fame in 2000. He also was chair of two of the college's presidential search committees -- in 1985 and again in 1997.

Gibbel is a past chairman of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies and secretary/treasurer and past president of the Pennsylvania Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. He received the 1981 Distinguished Service Award from the Pennsylvania Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. In 1974 he received the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies Merit Award and served as its chair in 1982. He is a director of the Mutual Aid Association of the Church of the Brethren and past chairman and director emeritus of the Brethren Village Retirement and Healthcare Community.

Timothy Statton, a Juniata trustee since 1998, graduated from Juniata in 1972 earning a bachelor's degree in business and earned another bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from San Francisco State University.

Statton joined the Bechtel Corporation shortly after graduating from Juniata. Bechtel is an international engineering, construction and development company that has built countless American and international projects including the Hoover Dam, the Channel Tunnel connecting Britain and France, Hong Kong International Airport and Washington's Metro and the San Francisco's BART rapid transit systems.

He was president of Bechtel Enterprises from 2001 to 2004, Bechtel Communications from 2004 to 2007 and Bechtel Power from 2007 until his retirement in 2009. During his career at Bechtel, Statton has worked both at the company's San Francisco headquarters and worked at several field assignments. He served as the managing director of Bechtel's Asia Pacific Operations in the early 1990s, setting up offices throughout the region.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.