2018 Student Speaker

Majors: Biology and Journalism; Minor: Thanatology

Hometown: Barrington, RI

The practice of empathy is important to Ellis Iacono ’18. A biology and journalism major with an eye toward a career in medicine, Iacono said that the opportunity to minor in thanatology—the study of grief, death and dying—provided a watershed moment in his personal and educational development.

“URI has helped me develop my empathy and interest in working within the human struggle, which traces back to my thanatology minor,” he said. “That development has also guided my post-graduate interests.”

After graduation, Iacono will pursue a master’s degree in public health at Virginia Commonwealth University and hopes to one day go to medical school with the goal of working in community health.

But at Commencement on Sunday, May 20, Class of 2018 student speaker Iacono will share some of what he has learned during his URI days.

A look at Iacono’s time at URI demonstrates his commitment to learning and to activities that make a difference in people’s lives. He has participated in the Honors Program and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in 2017. His senior Honors project was a film documentary on the quality of HIV education in the state’s public schools.

Outside the classroom, Iacono was a volunteer and employee of the Frank Olean Center in Westerly, working with children with autism. He also worked with Compassion and Choices, a nonprofit that supports death with dignity legislation. An ambassador with the Pre-Health Advising Program, Iacono co-founded and was president of URI Doc Opp, which provides peer advising for students who want to go to medical school. “I meet a lot of students who haven’t adjusted easily to college. We help them understand the process and the expectations,” he said.


To hear James King ’06 tell of how he came to work for Madeleine Albright brings to mind that J.R.R. Tolkien line: “Not all those who wander are lost.” It’s King’s wandering that cinched his position at one of Washington, D.C.’s most respected consultancies.