Under Misty Skies: Inspiring Voices From Commencement 2018
The university celebrated its 91st Commencement on May 12 as master’s and doctoral degrees were conferred upon some 300 candidates in an early morning ceremony that included stirring remarks by MBA student Whitney Martinez, honorary degree recipient Daniel E. Walker, and alumna Jeanne Holm.
Under gray skies, the procession of degree candidates and members of the faculty—led by Professor Joshua Goode, who carried the ceremonial university mace—gathered in the tents erected on the Mudd quadrangle, on the north side of the Honnold/Mudd Library, to celebrate the newest members of CGU’s alumni community. Jeff Liou, pastor of the Claremont Colleges, delivered the opening invocation.
In his address, Walker, an acclaimed scholar, documentary filmmaker, and social entrepreneur, urged the graduates to look beyond their degrees and to seek new ways to create meaningful impact on people’s lives.
When he emerged from graduate school, Walker told the students, his mind was too cluttered with books and abstract theories to know how to apply them to the real world.
“My problem was I didn’t connect the letter with the spirit,” he said. “But when I finally did, I knew I wanted to inspire people. I wanted to use the arts to connect them with each other and to help them. Celebrate them. Graduates, I want you to think about that as you go out into the world.”
Walker was also one of three recipients who received honorary degrees at this year’s ceremony. Also honored during the ceremony were Zubaida Bai, founder and CEO of Ayzh, a company that delivers health support to women around the world, and Kim Stringfellow, an artist, educator, and curator whose work looks powerfully at ecological challenges in Southern California’s desert regions. Walker, Bai, and Stringfellow each received a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
Near the ceremony’s end, Management Information Systems alumna Jeanne Holm stepped up to the podium to deliver the charge to her fellow alumni.
“Today you walk forward, armed with the knowledge to make the world a better place,” said Holm, who serves as senior technology advisor to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Be kind to yourself. Be generous. Push the boundaries of your imagination.”
Holm was the recipient of a 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award; in addition, the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Service was given to SES alumnus Felton Williams and psychology alumnus Ralph Miller. Miller passed away in April; his award was accepted by his wife, Nan, on his behalf.
“Be brave, take chances,” Holm urged the graduates. “The most important thing is to believe in yourself. That will be hard sometimes in the years to come. But you are part of a community that believes in you. Remember that.”
On Commencement eve, a large audience in the university’s Peggy Phelps and East Galleries to listened to a forum with this year’s honorary degree recipients—Walker, Stringfellow, and Bai—who described their individual journeys to become artists and creators.
The forum’s moderator was Transdisciplinary Studies Program Director Andy Vosko, who asked each panelist to share and discuss the vision and understanding that has enabled them to strike out on unique paths that have bridged multiple fields and disciplines.
“You have to have passion for what you want to do, that is most important,” explained Stringfellow, whose passion has resulted in an acclaimed career as an artist and chronicler of the ecological challenges (and possibilities) facing the Salton Sea and surrounding environs. “You have to want to keep studying, to keep exploring. I’m able to do what I do because I’m always learning.”
For Walker, the inspiration behind his multifaceted career boils down to a single thing: humanity.
“Humanity is what inspires me,” he explained. “Watching people try. Watching them fight for what they believe. That is what inspires me.”
For Bai, whose company, Ayzh, has developed inexpensive clean birth kits to help expecting mothers deliver their babies in a safe, sterile environment, success and failure are part of the process.
“The fact that you stand up and take a step says something,” she told the audience. “Even if it’s just one step, it is still something. To stand up and take action matters.”