Graduates to be inspired by heavyweight keynoters

Very soon, our town is going to feel less populated with the upcoming exodus of hundreds of college students. Many are not only reaching the end of the academic year, they are wrapping up their entire collegiate experience and saying farewell to the campus, the city, the friends, the professors and the tests and term papers that have dominated their lives over the last several years.

Propelling them into their future on commencement day will be a slate of interesting speakers hailing from a wide variety of professions and places and bringing to Claremont a robust assortment of personalities and perspectives. Below, enjoy a brief glimpse of each of the 2012 commencement speakers for the “5Cs” and the 3 graduate schools in Claremont.

Harvey Mudd College, Sunday, May 13, 1:30 p.m. Most of the time, when people say the name “Bill Nye,” what naturally follows is (say it with me) “The Science Guy.” Scientist indeed, but also engineer, comedian, television personality, author and inventor, Mr. Nye will entertain and inspire HMC students next weekend. A Cornell University graduate (who once won a Steve Martin look-alike contest), Mr. Nye won 7 Emmy Awards for writing, performing and producing his educational and comedic television super-hit, “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” and the show itself won 18 Emmys during its 5-year run. He has hosted and appeared on numerous television shows, holds several US patents, lectures around the world and helped develop the “MarsDials,” 2 sundials affixed on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers on Mars.

Claremont McKenna College, Saturday, May 12, 2 p.m. Sending McKenna students into their future will be N.R. Narayana Murthy, founder of Infosys Limited, a global software company headquartered in India that he and 6 friends started with $215 in 1981. Today, the company has more than 100,000 employees around the world. At Infosys, Mr. Murthy designed the Global Delivery Method, which became the foundation for the monumental success of information technology outsourcing from India. He once stated the following, sharing his recipe for a successful, respected company: “Performance leads to recognition. Recognition brings respect. Respect enhances power. Humility and grace in one’s moments of power enhances the dignity of an organization.” Mr. Murthy serves on numerous international educational and philanthropic boards and councils and has received more than 20 prestigious awards, including being named as one of Fortune magazine’s 12 Greatest Entrepreneurs of our Time earlier this year.

Pitzer College, Saturday, May 12, 10 a.m. With her hair slightly more subdued than it was in the 1960s, activist, academic, author and revolutionary Angela Davis will step up to the Pitzer College commencement podium. A University of California, Santa Cruz distinguished professor emerita, Ms. Davis is most known for her intense activism in association with the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Panther Party and the Communist Party USA as well as her 1970 arrest, imprisonment, trial and acquittal in the murder of a California judge. Ms. Davis, who taught at The Claremont Colleges from 1975-77, holds a doctorate in philosophy from Humboldt University in East Berlin and continues work for social justice, speaking out about the death penalty, the criminal justice system, sexism, racism and many other issues of injustice and inequality.

Pomona College, Sunday, May 13, 10 a.m. Not one, but 4 speakers will give Pomona students their send-off into the real world, including Claremont native and 1972 Claremont High School graduate Cameron Munter, who is currently serving as the US ambassador to Pakistan. Mr. Munter previously served as deputy chief of mission in Prague, Warsaw and Baghdad; as an ambassador in Belgrade; and in numerous Washington, DC positions.

Also addressing Pomona’s graduating class will be Marigold Linton, a cognitive psychologist and member of the Morongo Band of Cahuilla Mission Indians. Raised in poverty, she became the very first Native American from a California reservation to attend college, and she has established numerous programs that support Native Americans in earning advanced degrees in the sciences.

American jazz musician and 1977 Pomona graduate David Murray is on the docket as well. Mr. Murray plays tenor saxophone and bass clarinet and has recorded prolifically since the 1970s. He has received numerous awards and honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Grammy, along with his band, for Best Jazz Instrumental Group.

Lastly, the president of Occidental College, Jonathan Veitch, will head to Claremont to share his wisdom. Known as a leading advocate for liberal arts education, Mr. Veitch has greatly strengthened Occidental’s civic engagement, arts and global literacy programs. Formerly a university professor, associate provost and dean, he is the author of the award-winning book, American Superrealism: Nathanael West and the Politics of Representation in the 1930s.

Scripps College, Saturday, May 12, 5 p.m. Joining Scripps students on the Elm Tree Lawn will be Women for Women International co-founder and president Zainab Salbi. Born in Baghdad, Iraq, Ms. Salbi moved to the US at age 19, impassioned and devoted to addressing the plight of women worldwide. Women for Women helps female war survivors rebuild their lives through rights awareness training, vocational skills education and access to income-generating opportunities. Ms. Salbi is the author of 2 books, including her memoir, Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny; Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam. For her widespread humanitarian work, she has received substantial recognition, including being honored by Time magazine as Innovator of the Month and nominated by former President Bill Clinton as one of Harper’s Bazaar 21st Century Heroines.

Claremont School of Theology, Tuesday, May 15, 8:30 a.m. Talking to CST students will be environmentalist and author Bill McKibben. His first book, The End of Nature, is a seminal publication on climate change, with numerous other respected books on critical global environmental issues following. In 2006, the former New Yorker writer led a 5-day walk across Vermont to demand action on global warming and, in 2007, he founded and organized 1,400 global warming demonstrations across all 50 states. An earlier climate change campaign he launched,, has coordinated 15,000 rallies in 189 countries since 2009. Mr. McKibben holds honorary degrees from a dozen colleges and was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences last year.

Claremont Graduate University, Saturday, May 12, 9 a.m. Telle Whitney, the president and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, will bring her expertise to the podium at CGU next Saturday. A computer scientist by training, Ms. Whitney helped found the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference, the largest gathering of women in computing in the world. She also co-founded the National Center for Women and Information Technology, has served on numerous IT advisory boards and is a member of the Forbes executive women’s board. Similar to the other 2012 commencement speakers, Ms. Whitney has been decorated with numerous honors, including being named one of San Jose’s Business Journal’s Top 100 Women of Influence.

Keck Graduate Institute, Saturday, May 12, 11 a.m. Tina Nova, the founding CEO of Genoptix, will serve as Keck’s commencement speaker. Genoptix, one of North America’s fastest-growing companies, is a molecular diagnostic biotech company that provides personalized and comprehensive laboratory services to community-based hematologists and oncologists. Before joining Genoptix, Ms. Nova—nicknamed “Super Nova”—was a life sciences executive at Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc., Nanogen, Inc. and Hybritech, Inc. and helped discover how to obtain and stabilize the antigen being developed to help diagnose prostate cancer. The Genoptix board chairman has been quoted as describing Ms. Nova as someone “who knows how to motivate people and make things happen in a very complex environment.”

The Claremont COURIER congratulates members of the class of 2012 at each of these fine institutions.

—Brenda Bolinger






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