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2011 Commencement Recap

Watch the Full Ceremony

Note: To view videos and read speeches, please use the navigation on the left or click on the speaker's name below. To view photos of Commencement, scroll to the end of the page or visit our Flickr account. To watch all of Commencement, click on the photo to the right.

May 15, 2011

As proud families and friends watched, approximately 390 students received their diplomas during the College's 118th Commencement on May 15 on Marston Quad under "String Theory," the artful and sustainable canopy first introduced at the 2009 Commencement, and some rain, the first anyone can remembering occuring at Commencement in at least 30 years. The skies cleared as faculty and graduates began the processional.

In his charge to the Class of 2011, Pomona College President David W. Oxtoby (YouTube, text [pdf] ) discussed the importance of facts ("Facts matter: They shape our future world), ideas ("As you leave this college, take with you the confidence that big ideas can plant trees, build buildings, and shape the world."), and people (Education is not just want you learn in the classroom; it is also the relationships that you build and the community to whch you belong.").

He implored graduates: "As you go out through the gates of the College, you will enter a world where such mutual respect, openness to difference, and civil discourse are in far too short supply. Take with you the model of your College, even with its flaws and need for improvement, and use it to build community in your future lives: people matter.

After President Oxtoby's speech, Senior Class Speaker Leah Steuer '11 gave her speech (YouTube, text [pdf] ).

Honorary degrees were then conferred upon Judy Burton, Edwin Krupp '66 and Douglas Preston '78, and Commencement Speaker Steven Chu.

Steven Chu is Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy. As Secretary, he is charged with helping to implement an ambitious agenda that includes increasing investment in clean energy, reducing the country’s dependence on foreign oil, addressing global climate change and helping to create new jobs. Prior to his appointment, he was director of the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he focused on alternative and renewable energy. He is particularly known for his research in cooling and trapping atoms with laser light, for which he was a co-winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics. His research covers the areas of atomic physics, quantum electronics, and polymer and biophysics. He holds 10 patents and is the author of more than 250 scientific and technical papers. Chu has served as professor of physics and applied physics at Stanford University, professor of physics, molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and head of the Quantum Electronics Research Department at Bell Laboratories.

YouTube | text [pdf]

Judy Ivie Burton is president and chief executive officer of the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, a non-profit, charter management organization aimed at promoting high achievement and college enrollment among children from disadvantaged communities. Based in Los Angeles, the Alliance currently includes 18 small, public high schools and middle schools, with approximately 6,000 students, more than 90 percent of whom are Latina/o or African American and are from low-income families. Prior to her current position, Burton served as superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) largest local district, serving more than 80,000 students. She previously served as the assistant superintendent, heading the LAUSD’s Office of School Reform. She began her career in education as a teacher and principal, and is a nationally-recognized speaker and advocate on school reform. In 2010, she received a James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award as well as the Excellence in Education Award from the Harvard University Club of Southern California.

YouTube | text [pdf]

Edwin Krupp ’66 is an astronomer and the director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. He began his career at the iconic observatory as a planetarium lecturer, and in 1972 was appointed curator, with responsibility for the fabrication and design of major museum exhibits. As director, one of his early projects was to develop long-term strategy for the renovation and renewal of the facility, which opened in 1935. Ultimately, this led to the $93 million renovation of the Griffith Observatory from 2002-2006. Throughout his career, Krupp has been known for his embrace of the latest technology to better serve the Observatory’s audience, his promotion of astronomy to the general public, and his extensive publications on astronomical and science education topics. His award-winning books include In Search of Ancient Astronomies and Archaeoastronomy and the Roots of Science. He has also contributed to numerous other volumes, lectures frequently on astronomical topics, and has led dozens of field study and eclipse viewing tours around the globe. He holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Astronomy from UCLA. At Pomona College he majored in physics and astronomy, participated in cross-country, track, and soccer, and worked at KSPC Radio. For two years he lived in Brackett Observatory and served as its caretaker.

YouTube | text [pdf]

Douglas Preston ’78 is a journalist and best-selling author. He has published five non-fiction books, including The Monster of Florence, about an Italian serial killer. The book will become a motion picture starring George Clooney. Preston is the author or co-author, with Lincoln Child, of 21 fiction books. The most recent, Gideon’s Sword, was published in February. He began his writing career as an editor for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, later writing a column in Natural History Magazine and becoming managing editor of Curator Quarterly. In 1985 he wrote Dinosaurs in the Attic, about the explorers and expeditions in the Museum’s early days. As a journalist, he has published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Smithsonian, Natural History and National Geographic, among other magazines. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, an advisory board member of the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, a member of the Governing Council of the Author’s Guild, and co-president of International Thriller Writers. At Pomona College he studied English literature and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He served as editor of The Student Life and participated in a field experience program at Griffith Observatory, where his supervisor was fellow 2011 honorary degree recipient Edwin Krupp.

YouTube | text [pdf]