MORAGA, Calif. (March 4, 2011) - A pair of successful women from the worlds of California business and politics will address undergraduate and graduate students at the 148th Commencement Ceremonies of Saint Mary's College of California.
Business entrepreneur and Saint Mary's alumna Sherie Swiess Dodsworth ('78), will deliver the Commencement address to the College's undergraduates and Sunne Wright McPeak, president and CEO of the California Emerging Technology Fund, will offer the Commencement address to Saint Mary's graduate students. The Commencement addresses by these two dynamic leaders are part of the College's ongoing recognition of the 40th anniversary of the admission of women to Saint Mary's.
An expected 450 students will receive their diplomas at the undergraduate Commencement on Saturday, May 21, 2011, at 9:30 a.m. at SMC Stadium. An estimated 200 students will receive diplomas the following Sunday, May 22, 2011, at 4 p.m. at the graduate Commencement at McKeon Pavilion.
Dodsworth earned her license as a California Certified Public Accountant in 1980, and went on to serve in senior financial roles as CFO, managing director and principal in industries ranging from investment management, semiconductor, e-commerce and venture capital during the dot-com boom and beyond.
In 2006, following 26 years of success in the corporate world, Dodsworth decided to change course after seeing the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and its effects on people's lives. She founded Securita, Inc., and as its CEO, she invented a lightweight, water-resistant portfolio -the Vital Records PortaVault- that organizes and stores hundreds of important personal documents and can be easily carried in an emergency.
Dodsworth has served as the Chairman of Borel Private Bank & Trust Company since June 2004 and is a Member of its Board of Directors. She credits her Saint Mary's education for her business and leadership savvy. "I learned to think on my feet and articulate and execute my ideas," said Dodsworth.
Consistently recognized for her extraordinary executive leadership skills, in 2010 Dodsworth received the San Francisco Most Influential Women in Business Award and was honored by Saint Mary's as one of its 40 most influential alumnae. She also recently served as a Trustee of Saint Mary's and was the first alumna to serve as president of the College's Board of Regents. She also was the first female to serve as president of the SMC Alumni Association, and the first woman to be elected Alumna of the Year in 1999. Dodsworth graduated from Saint Mary's with a bachelor of science degree in accounting.
Brother President Ronald Gallagher said that Dodsworth is a remarkable leader, whose wisdom and experience will provide Saint Mary's graduates with insight and inspiration. "She is an honored alumna of the College and offers our graduates the important message that they should always believe in themselves, explore new opportunities and never shy away from leadership opportunities."
Dodsworth said she was honored to be this year's commencement speaker. "Saint Mary's is a remarkable place and I am thankful for the decision they made 40 years ago to admit women. My continued involvement with the college has given me the opportunity to meet and mentor many Saint Mary's students," she said. "They have the opportunity to learn, create and lead as a member of the SMC community and I am looking forward to sharing a few thoughts about embracing these talents as they begin the next chapter in their life's journey."
Sunne Wright McPeak, the President and CEO of the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), will deliver the Commencement address to Saint Mary's graduate students from the School of Economics and Business Administration, Kalmanovitz School of Education and the School of Liberal Arts.
Since December 2006, McPeak has served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the CETF, which is a non-profit organization that provides leadership statewide to close the Digital Divide by accelerating access to broadband and other advanced communication services to underserved communities and populations.
Highly regarded statewide as an accomplished leader in both the private and public sector, her government leadership includes serving in 2003 as the Secretary of the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency (BTH) for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. As head of the largest state agency, she oversaw 14 departments, more than 42,000 employees and a budget of $11 billion. McPeak also served as the President and CEO of the Bay Area Council for seven years. Previously she served as the President and CEO of the Bay Area Economic Forum.
McPeak's government experience also includes more than 15 years as a member of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors. First elected supervisor at age 30, she championed many local and statewide initiatives to improve the quality of life for Contra Costa County residents.
McPeak has served as President of the California State Association of Counties and on the Boards of Directors of First Nationwide Bank and the Simpson Manufacturing Company. She has received scores of awards and honors, including recognition by the San Francisco League of Women Voters in 1997 as "a woman who could be President," an award, honoring exceptional women who have shown exemplary leadership and service in their communities.
"Sunne Wright McPeak's career as a public servant and an accomplished leader in the business sector is admirable," said Brother President Ronald Gallagher. "We are proud to have her speak to our graduates."
"I am honored to have the opportunity to participate in Saint Mary's graduate student Commencement this year because the College's graduate programs provide exceptional preparation for today's business, education and community leaders to become even more effective and successful in meeting tomorrow's challenges," said McPeak. "It is always inspiring and encouraging to witness their enthusiasm and energy as they embark on the next chapter of their journey to make the world a better place."
McPeak (whose first name is her Norwegian grandmother's family last name) grew up on a small dairy farm in the San Joaquin Valley. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in International Medicine from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her Master of Public Health degree in Health Education and Medical Care Administration from the University of California, Berkeley. She also has received two honorary doctoral degrees from California State University East Bay and John F. Kennedy University.