2009 Commencement Recap

May 17, 2009

As proud families and friends watched, approximately 370 students received their diplomas during the College's 116th Commencement on May 17 on Marston Quad.

In his Charge to the Class of 2009 [pdf], Pomona College President David W. Oxtoby looked to Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point for inspiration for the students, referencing recent events and current issues like the 2008 election and climate change. President Oxtoby offered this hope for the graduates when they come upon future tipping points:

“Tipping points involve a certain degree of chance. But they also involve being prepared to respond to a situation with potential, as well as being ready to think strategically and to use social networks to build momentum for a cause. I hope and trust that your Pomona College education has prepared you for just this purpose.”

Alix Coupet ’09 and Julie Tate '09 gave the student speeches.

Professor Frederick Sontag

Professor Frederick Sontag was presented the Trustees' Medal of Merit by Stewart R. Smith '68, chairman of the Board of Trustees. Sontag arrived in Claremont in 1952 as a philosophy professor and the nature and breadth of his special interests—metaphysics, philosophy of religion, philosophical psychology, existentialism, and philosophical theology—are brilliantly reflected in the profoundly influential life he has led. He has written nearly 30 scholarly books, while contributing almost 100 essays and articles to major publications and more than 300 articles and opinion pieces to professional journals, magazines, and newspapers. His name is honored at Pomona with a research fellowship fund and the Sontag Greek Theatre.

Frederick Sontag's speech [pdf].

Bob Herbert

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert delivered the keynote address and received an honorary degree. As an op-ed columnist since 1993, Herbert writes twice a week on politics, urban affairs and social trends. He was a national correspondent for NBC in the early 1990s, and worked at The Daily News for many years previous to that. He has taught journalism at Brooklyn College and the Columbia University School of Journalism, and has won numerous awards, including the American Society of newspaper Editors award for distinguished newspaper writing. In 2005, he published Promised Betrayed: Waking Up from the American Dream.

Bob Herbert's speech [pdf].

Mary Schmich '75

Mary Schmich '75 has worked as a journalist at the Peninsula Times Tribune in Palo Alto, the Orlando Sentinel and, since 1985, the Chicago Tribune. She's been writing three columns each week since 1992--except for a year spent at Harvard on a Nieman Fellowship for journalists--on topics ranging from humorous reflections on birthday greetings to serious reporting on the demolition of the Cabrini-Green housing project. For 25 years, she has moonlighted as the writer of the "Brenda Starr" comic strip. She experienced a brief spate of worldwide fame when a 1997 column, "Wear Sunscreen," a collection of wry advice to college graduates, was emailed around the nation, mistakenly identified as an MIT commencement speech. The column became an internet favorite, and she shared it with our 2009 graduates at Commencement. 

Luis Valdez

Luis Valdez is regarded as one of the most important and influential American playwrights. His play Zoot Suit, which had a successful run here at Pomona in both 2008 and 2009, is considered a masterpiece of the American theater as well as the first Chicano play to appear on Broadway and the first Chicano major feature film. His company, El Teatro Campesino (The Farm Workers' Theatre), was founded in 1965 and is the most distinguished and longest-running Chicano theatre in the United States. His many feature films and television credits include the hit film La Bamba, Cisco Kid and Corridos: Tales of Passion and Revolution. He has won countless awards, including the prestigious Peabody Award for excellence in television. In 2007 he was one of 50 artists to be awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship. His latest anthology, Mummified Deer and Other Plays, was recently published. Read Luis Valdez's Commencement speech.

Luis Valdez's speech [pdf].

A new element was added to the Commencement ceremony this year: an artful and sustainable canopy to utilizing art, science and mathematics to provide shade for graduates. View a slideshow of the canopy construction process...