College commencement speakers range from politicians to business mavens

Believe it or not, graduation from the various colleges in Claremont is upon us. As always, the prestigious collection of schools has lined up a varied and impressive array of speakers. Details about the commencements and their respective honored guests are listed below.

Claremont Graduate University

Claremont Graduate University will hold its 87th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 17 at 9 a.m. in the Mudd Quadrangle, loated at 170 E. Tenth Street in Claremont.

Two powerhouse women will be on hand to receive honorary degrees and speak.

These include Andrea Bertozzi, a world-class applied mathematician with years of distinguished performance as a teacher, scholar and leader in her field. Recently named UCLA’s Betsy Wood Knapp Chair for Innovation and Creativity, she also chairs the science board of the National Science Foundation’s Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics at Brown University.

The second distinguished guest is Sherry Lansing, a former actress and former CEO of Paramount Pictures. As president of production at 20th Century Fox, she was the first woman to head a Hollywood studio. Six of Paramount’s 10 highest-grossing films were released during her tenure. 

Claremont Lincoln University

Claremont Lincoln University—which nurtures future leaders skilled in fostering interfaith cooperation—will have its convocation on Tuesday, May 20 at 4 p.m. The ceremony will feature hip hop magnate Russell Simmons as keynote speaker.

Mr. Simmons co-founded the influential hip hop music label Def Jam which under his leadershi released music by Public Enemy, LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys and Warren G among others.

Mr. Simmons also created the fashion lines Phat Farm, Argyleculture and American Classics. Noted as one of the wealthiest people in hip hop, he is involved in philanthropic efforts around the world. 

He has written widely about ethical business practices, including co-authoring the book Rich: A Guide to Having it All, which espouses giving as a lifestyle choice.

The Claremont Lincoln convocation will be held at Garrison Theater, 231 E. 10th St. in Claremont. The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required.

Harvey Mudd College

With Harvey Mudd College awarding more engineering degrees to women than men for the first time, the star of the school’s 56th commencement—set for Sunday, May 18, is really a percentage. Fifty-six percent of HMC’s newly-minted engineers are female.

Evolutionary Biologist Beth Shapiro will also take center stage as keynote speaker, address some of the nation’s most gifted engineering, science and mathematics graduates when she delivers the keynote address at Harvey Mudd College’s 56th Commencement ceremony Sunday, May 18.

Ms. Shapiro, co-author of the textbook Ancient DNA: Methods and Protocols, is associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at University of California Santa Cruz. With her specialty in the genetics of ice age animals, she has traveled extensively through the Arctic regions of Alaska, Siberia and Canada.

“One of my favorite things to do when I go into the field is to travel into the middle of nowhere where there aren’t any people. The world feels so good and clean and natural up there,” Ms. Shapiro has said.

The commencement ceremony will be held at 1:30 p.m. at the Harvey S. Mudd Quadrangle on the Harvey Mudd campus, located at 301 Platt Blvd. in Claremont. It will also be streamed live on the HMC website.

Keck Graduate Institute

The Keck Graduate Institute will welcome the Honorable Bob Kerrey, former US senator and governor of Nebraska, as the keynote speaker for its 2014 commencement, set for Saturday, May 17 at 11 a.m.


Senator Kerry is the managing director at the privately held boutique investment bank Allen and Company and serves as executive chairman of the Minerva Institute for Research and Scholarship, supporting the Minerva Project. KGI has partnered with the Minerva Project to create Minerva Schools at KGI, a program that a KGI release says “will offer a unique undergraduate education to some of the world’s brightest and most motivated students.”


Senator Kerrey, who is the author of the 2002 memoir, “When I Was A Young Man,” served as a US Navy SEAL during the Vietnam War, during which time he was wounded. He received the Medal Of Honor for his heroism in combat. 


The Commencement will take place on the east lawn of Keck Graduate Institute, located at 525 Watson Drive in Claremont.


Pitzer College


Members of the Pitzer College Class of 2014 will be sent on their way with words of inspiration from civil rights activist and CNN correspondent Van Jones during the school’s upcoming commencement, set for Saturday, May 17 at 10 a.m. At the Stephen L. Glass Commencement Plaza.


The ceremony, which will be broadcast live at, is kind of a big deal, because it is the school’s 50th annual commencement. With this in mind, the school has made sure it obtains a particularly accomplished keynote speaker.


Mr. Jones, who was recently named a co-host on CNN’s Crossfire, was a primary advocate for the Green Jobs Act signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007. In 2009, he joined the Obama Administration as the green jobs adviser.


He is also president and co-founder of Rebuild the Dream, a nonprofit that strives to innovate grassroots, “people-powered” solutions to help repair the US economy. He also founded Green For All, an organization aimed at developing green jobs in underserved communities. The indomitable Mr. Jones has also created two social justice organizations, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and He is the author of two New York Times bestsellers, The Green Collar Economy and Rebuild the Dream.


Pitzer College is located at 1050 N. Mills Ave. in Claremont. A live webcast of the college’s commencement begins at 9:45 a.m. and will be viewable at


Pomona College

Pomona College has arranged for three notable speakers to inspire graduates at the school’s 121st commencement exercises, set for Sunday, May 18 at 10 a.m. The ceremony will be held in Marston Quadrangle, located between Fourth and Sixth streets in Claremont. 

Valerie B. Jarrett will take to the podium as keynote speaker for the 390 members of the Class of 2014 and their families. Ms. Jarrett, a Chicago lawyer, businesswoman and civic leader, is senior adviser to President Barak Obama.

Ms. Jarrett serves as Assistant to the President for Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs as well as chairing the White House Council on Women and Girls and the White House Office of Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport. She was an integral part of President Obama’s campaign and was co-chair of his presidential transition team.

Three additional speakers will receive honorary degrees and enliven the commencement: Father Gregory Boyle, who has dedicated his life to helping gang members and former prisoners thrive; famed singer and conductor Plácido Domingo; and Michael Starbird, a 1970 Pomona alumnus who is a professor of mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin.

In 1992, Father Boyle founded Homeboy Industries, a revolutionary program that offers intervention programs to high-risk youth, former gang members and people who have recently been incarcerated. Homeboy Industries, which serves 10,000 community members every year, offers numerous free programs, including tattoo removal, work training and employment services, parenting classes, legal services, mental health counseling for issues like substance abuse and anger management and self-development courses such as yoga and art.

Father Boyleis of the best-selling memoir Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion.

The Marston Quadrangle will be alive with the sound of music epitomized when Plácido Domingo—an internationally acclaimed Spanish vocalist, composer and conductor—speaks to the slew of grads, dads and other relatives.

Mr. Domingo is one of The Three Tenors, a venerable group that also includes opera singers José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti. Throughout his decades-long career, he has performed at myriad opera houses and festivals and sung more than 144 roles, with his signature part being Mario Cavaradosi in Puccini’s Tosca. He has conducted more than 500 opera performances and symphonic concerts and released more than 100 recordings, for which he has earned a dozen Grammy Awards.

The final speaker is a mover and shaker in the world of mathematics who is proud to call Pomona College his alma mater. Mr. Starbird, a University Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, was given the national teaching award by the Mathematical Association of America in 2007.

No tickets are required for the ceremony, but you should plan on getting there early because parking can get tricky. You can also watch the entire ceremony from home, because it will be live-streamed at

Pomona College is located at 333 N. College Way in Claremont.

Scripps College

Global entrepreneur Nonie Creme, a Scripps College alumna who has made a splash in the beauty business, will serve as the keynote speaker for the school’s upcoming commencement, set for Saturday, May 17 at 5 p.m.

She will speak to the 232 students graduating from the liberal arts women’s college on “Flying by the Seat of Your Pants, but Flying Just the Same.”

Ms. Creme, who graduated from Scripps in 1994, is the founding creative director of the hugely successful cosmetic company Butter London. She is now in the midst of launching a new mass-market beauty line called Nonie Creme-Colour Prevails, which will include beauty products of every ilk.

“She is passionate in her message to all women, a message that comes from her own story: ‘Find yourself, and then be yourself. Success and opportunity are hidden in every facet of our lives,’” Ms. Bettison-Varga said.

Tickets are not required for the commencement ceremony, which will take place on Elm Tree Lawn of the Scripps College campus, 1030 Columbia Ave. in Claremont. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 3:30 p.m.

Claremont School of Theology

Commencement for Claremont School of Theology will be held on Tuesday, May 20 on the Kresge Chapel lawn. The ceremony begins at 9 am., but guests are encouraged to begin arriving as soon as 8 a.m. Seating will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. CST is located at 1325 N. College Ave. in Claremont.

The COURIER did not have information on the speakers lined up for CST’s graduation ceremonies as of press time.

—Sarah Torribio


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