Since his graduation, much of Foege's life has been dedicated to public service. Serving first as a medical missionary in Nigeria, he later worked with the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations to eliminate smallpox and encourage childhood immunizations. Currently, he is a professor of public health at Emory University and serves on PLU's Board of Regents.
Foege, also the commencement speaker, built his address around PLU's motto of "educating for lives of service." He told the graduates that they "face challenges as no previous generation has been challenged."
Comparing the graduates to explorers, he said they must carry out constant maintenance on their moral compasses. He urged them to be involved, not just be spectators of life. "Give quality work throughout your lives," he said, even though "there's no way of knowing how your efforts will affect the future."
In his concluding remarks, he rephrased Rudyard Kipling's "Ballad of East and West." In life, he said, the four things greater than all things are "purpose, faith, wisdom and love."
Foege's honor marked the 86th time in the past 51 years that PLU has conferred honorary degrees and citations of honor. These are given in recognition of significant achievements and dedication to education, religious service, or service in the professional fields, the arts or to the public. That afternoon, the university awarded 517 bachelor's degrees and 48 master's degrees.
In a separate ceremony, held the previous day in Lagerquist Concert Hall, 11 ROTC students were commissioned, including five from St. Martin's College, of Olympia, Wash., and 39 nursing students were pinned.