Photography by Dan Rosenstrauch
Extraordinary accomplishments celebrated
Nearly 1,100 undergraduate and graduate students received their degrees in three commencement ceremonies on campus in late May and early June, bringing together thousands of friends and relatives for joyous celebrations.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was the keynote speaker at the June 2 School of Extended Education final commencement ceremony. He praised the 268 graduates for earning their degrees “against all odds” while juggling job and family responsibilities.
“You made a choice, set a goal and no matter how hard it got you did not quit,” Schwarzenegger told the graduates in a packed McKeon Pavilion. “You are the great life stories that make America what it is today.”
Similar stories of accomplishment were told on May 26, when nearly 650 students received diplomas during the College’s 144th undergraduate commencement at the stadium.
On May 27, 172 graduates from the School of Education and graduate programs in the School of Liberal Arts were celebrated in McKeon Pavilion.
At the SEED commencement, the governor recalled his dreams of coming to America from Austria to be a bodybuilding champion and a Hollywood actor and “to make millions and millions of dollars.”
“Everything that I’ve ever done in my life, there were always people there saying, ‘It can’t be done,’” Schwarzenegger said, eliciting laughter as he recounted the challenges he faced because of his accent and unusual name.
He singled out one of the graduates, his chief of staff Susan Kennedy, for “an extraordinary accomplishment” of earning a bachelor’s degree in management while putting in 16- to 18-hour days in his office.
In her welcoming remarks to the governor, Penelope Washbourn, academic coordinator of the bachelor’s in management program, quipped that “the management program might take some credit for your success and for the dramatic rise in your approval ratings since (Kennedy) joined your staff.”
Washbourn noted that the governor’s “capacity for lifelong learning and openness to change” exemplified the values of the School of Extended Education.
Schwarzenegger attributed his academic success to a program like SEED at the University of Wisconsin, where he earned a degree in business administration in 1978 after nine years of studying while working in construction and on movie sets. “So I know what it takes and I know what it took for you all to be here today,” the governor said. “The passion that you had to have, the commitment, the determination and the guts to stick it out and you did it.”
The governor urged the graduates to follow his example by using their degrees to find something they feel passionate about and to help others. He said that he made the decision nearly four years ago “to jump in and run for governor even though I turned my back on $30 million for Terminator 4,” referring to the action film series sequel. “I did that because I wanted to give something back … to this great country and to this great state that has given me absolutely everything.”
In his salutation, Brother President Ronald Gallagher acknowledged that the commencement ceremony was “a bittersweet moment” for SEED faculty and staff and he congratulated graduates for their hard work, persistence and dedication.
“We trust that your degree from Saint Mary’s will not only enhance your capabilities, but also heighten your sense of responsibility to your fellow citizens,” said Brother Ronald.
Bishop Emeritus John S. Cummins gave the commencement address at the undergraduate ceremony, speaking on the Lasallian tradition. He compared the life of Saint John Baptist de La Salle in France 300 years ago to those of the graduates as they move on in their lives.
“His was a vocation that closed in on him, in his own words, ‘imperceptibly,’ ” he said. “This may indeed be something of the experience of these past four years, your finding new interests, uncovering new areas to like, perhaps changing a major.
“You may be fortunate to have some area dominating your interest, ready like De La Salle, to give the best of energies, embracing risk and courting discomfort, with the generosity of spirit that the writer of the Hebrew psalms praised in the young.”
Along with 640 seniors receiving bachelor’s degrees, nearly 40 pre-nursing students received their associate of science degrees. The bachelor’s recipients included 110 nursing graduates in SMC’s intercollegiate nursing program with Samuel Merritt College in Oakland.
Joseph Ovick, Contra Costa County schools superintendent, delivered the commencement speech at the graduate programs ceremony. The graduate programs include the Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, the Master’s of Arts in Kinesiology, Master’s of Liberal Studies and a number of educational degrees.