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2005 Commencement Recap

May 15, 2005

As proud families and friends watched, 368 students received their diplomas during the College's 112th Commencement on May 15 in Bridges Auditorium.

Students in the Class of 2005 came from as far away as Japan, Ireland and Germany. Their majors ran the gamut from mathematics to music to media studies. As they headed off to graduate fellowships, careers and other adventures, the class joined the ranks of more than 19,000 Pomona alumni living around the globe.

In his Charge to the class of 2005, Pomona College President David W. Oxtoby emphasized that the role of higher education is to teach students not just how to answer questions, "but how to pose interesting and important questions themselves."

"As you leave this hall today and move on in your lives, take with you the questioning spirit you have developed on campus," said Oxtoby. "Challenge accepted dogma, look at both sides of every issue, and don’t give up until you are satisfied with the answers to the questions you pose."

Kyle Edward Warneck '05 and Senior Class President Lucy Beatty Meyer '05 gave the student speeches. Honorary degrees were awarded to:

  • Steven Koblik, president of the Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens. The Library’ rare books and manuscripts comprise one of the largest and most extensively used collections in America outside of the Library of Congress. From 1968 to 1991, Koblik was a history professor at Pomona College, where he received three Wig Awards for outstanding teaching.
  • John Payton, widely considered to be one of the nation's leading civil rights attorneys, gave the keynote address as well as receiving an honorary degree during the event. A member of the Pomona Class of 1973, Payton was the lead counsel for the University of Michigan in the two landmark college admissions affirmative action cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004.
  • Thomas Dean Pollard, M.D., Pomona Class of 1964, chair of Yale’s University's Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. He previously served as president of the prestigious Salk Institute for Biological Studies (1996–2000) and as a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (1976–1996).

Delivering the keynote address, Payton noted that this class began college just days before September 11, 2001, which  "has hung like a cloud over much of the time you have spent in college. Sometimes in the foreground, always in the background."

His talk addressed "two very disturbing developments" that emerged as the post-September 11 spirit of unity faded. "The first was a rejection of and hostility toward the value of racial, ethnic, religious and cultural diversity,'' he said. "This manifested itself in extreme distrust of certain persons and religions thought to be incompatible with American values and culture."

"The second development was a serious erosion of fundamental legal rights that we cherish and promote as Americans."

Payton recalled his own generation's activism for racial and social justice and against the Vietnam War. He urged the Class of 2005 to be engaged in the issues of today.

"You can bring commitment to these issues," he said. "You can bring courage to these issues. It's your turn. Make us proud."