University of Pittsburgh
April 12, 2017

University of Pittsburgh Announces Speakers, New Commencement Ceremony Format

CVS Health President and CEO Larry J. Merlo and Emmy-winning actress S. Epatha Merkerson will address Pitt’s 2017 graduates
Contact:  412-624-4147

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PITTSBURGH—The top executive of the nation’s largest pharmacy health care company and an award-winning actress will address newly minted graduates at the University of Pittsburgh’s 2017 commencement ceremonies.Larry J. Merlo

Larry J. Merlo, president and chief executive officer of CVS Health, will be the featured speaker for Pitt’s graduate student commencement convocation at 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 29. Actress S. Epatha Merkerson, perhaps best known for her work on the television series “Law & Order,” will serve as speaker for the University’s undergraduate commencement convocation at 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 30. Both events will take place in the John M. and Gertrude E. Petersen Events Center.

“The University of Pittsburgh is starting a new tradition — two commencement ceremonies — to give our students and their families a more personal and engaging commencement experience,” said Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “Our undergraduate and graduate ceremonies, while occurring on different days, will share one unchanging goal: to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduating students. This is also a special time for our community to stop and thank our newest alumni for choosing to learn, lead and grow at Pitt.”

Biographical information for Saturday’s graduate student ceremony speaker:

A Pitt alumnus and University trustee, Merlo assumed the role of president and CEO of CVS Health in 2011 after joining CVS Pharmacy in 1990. He has played an integral role in CVS’s growth into the largest pharmacy health care provider in the United States. In 2014, CVS became the first national pharmacy chain to ban tobacco sales in its more than 7,600 stores. To reflect this broader health care commitment, the company subsequently changed its corporate name to CVS Health. Under Merlo’s leadership, CVS also has developed apprenticeship programs to train pharmaceutical technicians, provided scholarships to pharmacy students and launched a number of efforts to attract diverse communities to STEM careers.S. Epatha Merkerson

Merlo was named Pitt’s 2016 Distinguished Alumni Fellow, the University’s premier alumni honor, which recognizes extraordinary professional achievements. He also was recently named to Barron’s World’s Best CEOs list, as well as named a Fortune Businessperson of the Year. In 2010, he received Pitt School of Pharmacy’s Distinguished Alumni Award, and in 2008 was named a Legacy Laureate. A Board of Trustees member since 2013, Merlo earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Pitt’s School of Pharmacy in 1978.

Biographical information for Sunday’s undergraduate student ceremony speaker:

Merkerson portrayed Lt. Anita Van Buren in the long-running police procedural “Law & Order,” from 1993–2010. She received wide critical acclaim for her performance in the 2005 film “Lackawanna Blues” and currently is a costar on the medical drama “Chicago Med.” In an acting career spanning nearly 40 years, Merkerson’s film and television work has been recognized with an Emmy, a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award and four NAACP Image awards.

A native of Saginaw, Mich., Merkerson started her career in New York City off-Broadway theater. Delving back into stage acting throughout her career, she has been the recipient of a Drama Desk Award, the Helen Hayes Award, the Obie Award, and has been nominated for a Tony Award. Merkerson’s first television roles were as Reba the Mail Lady on CBS’s “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” and as Capt. Margaret Claghorn on NBC’s “Mann & Machine.” In addition to “Lackawanna Blues,” Merkerson’s major film credits include “She’s Gotta Have It,” “Black Snake Moan” and “Lincoln.”

Merkerson earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Wayne State University. She was also conferred an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Wayne State.



Larry J. Merlo

S. Epatha Merkerson