Commencement Speaker

Kenneth C. Frazier

Retired Chairman and CEO, Merck & Co., Inc.
Chairman, Health Assurance Initiatives, General Catalyst

Kenneth C. Frazier is the former Chairman and CEO of Merck, following his retirement from more than 30 years with the company, including a decade-long tenure as CEO.

In his retirement from Merck, Ken has committed himself to organizations dedicated to leading social change and building greater equity for all people. He is the Co-Founder and Co-Chair of OneTen, a coalition of leading organizations committed to upskilling, hiring, and promoting one million Black Americans into family-sustaining jobs. In addition, he is Chairman, Health Assurance Initiatives, at the venture capital firm, General Catalyst, where he advises on investments and partnerships for companies that are well-positioned to help transform the healthcare industry through collaborative and responsible innovation. 

Ken’s contributions, especially in the legal, business, and humanitarian fields, have been widely recognized. Under his leadership, Merck delivered innovative life-saving medicines and vaccines as well as long-term and sustainable value to its multiple stakeholders. Ken substantially increased Merck’s investment in research, including early research, while refocusing the organization on the launch and growth of key products that provide far-reaching benefits to society. He also led the formation of philanthropic and humanitarian initiatives that build on Merck’s 130-year legacy.

Ken joined Merck in 1992 and held positions of increasing responsibility, including General Counsel, before becoming President and CEO in 2011. Prior to joining Merck, Ken was a Partner with the Philadelphia law firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath. He sits on the boards of Weill Cornell Medicine, Eikon Therapeutics, the National Constitution Center, Paradigm, and Cornerstone Christian Academy in Philadelphia, PA. He also is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Council of the American Law Institute, the American Bar Association, and a Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.  Additionally, Ken is Co-Chair of the Legal Services Corporation’s Leaders Council.

As a strong advocate for social justice and economic inclusion, Ken is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Anti-Defamation League Courage Against Hate Award, the Botwinick Prize in Business Ethics from Columbia Business School, the Legend in Leadership Award from the Yale School of Management, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund National Equal Justice Award, and the National Minority Quality Forum’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2018, Ken received the Harvard Law School Association Award, the highest honor given by the prestigious association, in recognition of his extraordinary service to the legal profession, Harvard Law School, and the public. In that same year, Ken was named one of the World’s Greatest Leaders by Fortune magazine and was also named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People; he again made that list in 2021. In 2019, he became the first recipient of the Forbes Lifetime Achievement Award for Healthcare. In 2021 his peers named Ken Chief Executive magazine’s CEO of the Year. Most recently, he received the highly esteemed Fordham-Stein Prize from Fordham Law School, an honor bestowed for work embodying the highest standards of the legal profession.

Ken received his bachelor’s degree from The Pennsylvania State University and holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School.