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Pomona offers full menu of commencement speakers

Pomona College has arranged for three notable speakers to inspire graduates at the school’s 121st commencement exercises, set for Sunday, May 18 at 10 a.m. The ceremony will be held in Marston Quadrangle, located between Fourth and Sixth streets in Claremont. 

Valerie B. Jarret will take to the podium as keynote speaker for the 390 members of the Class of 2014 and their families. Ms. Jarret, a Chicago lawyer, businesswoman and civic leader, is a senior adviser to President Obama.

Ms. Jarrett serves as Assistant to the President for Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs as well as chairing the White House Council on Women and Girls and the White House Office of Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport. She was an integral part of President Obama’s campaign and was co-chair of his presidential transition team.

Before she joined the Obama Administration, Ms. Jarrett was the CEO of the Habitat real estate and management company. She has held numerous governmental posts in Chicago, including deputy chief of staff for Mayor Richard M. Daley, commissioner of the Planning and Development Department and chair of the Chicago Transit Board.

Ms. Jarrett has served on many notable boards, both in the business and nonprofit sector. She has been director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, chair of the boards of the Chicago Stock Exchange and the University Medical Center and vice chair of the University of Chicago Board of Trustees.

Three additional speakers will receive honorary degrees and no doubt will enliven the commencement: Father Gregory Boyle, who has dedicated his life to helping gang members and former prisoners thrive; famed singer and conductor Plácido Domingo; and Michael Starbird, a 1970 Pomona alumnus who is a professor of mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin.

Homeboy to the marginalized

In 1992, Father Boyle founded Homeboy Industries, a revolutionary program that offers intervention programs to high-risk youth, former gang members and people who have recently been incarcerated. Homeboy Industries, which serves 10,000 community members every year, offers numerous free programs, including tattoo removal, work training and employment services, parenting classes, legal services, mental health counseling for issues like substance abuse, anger management and self-development courses such as yoga and art.

The programs are funded through an array of small businesses, which currently employ more than 200 people looking to get back on their feet.

These include the Homeboy Bakery, Homegirl Café & Catering, Homeboy/Girl Merchandise, Homeboy Farmers Markets, The Homeboy Diner at City Hall, Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery and Homeboy Grocery, among others.

Father Boyle, who is the author of the best-selling memoir Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, believes in the potential of people many would marginalize.

“Kindness is the only strength there is,” he has said.

A tenor and a teacher

The Marston Quadrangle will be alive with the sound of music epitomized when Plácido Domingo—an internationally acclaimed Spanish vocalist, composer and conductor—speaks to the slew of grads, dads and other relatives.

Mr. Domingo is one of The Three Tenors, a venerable group that includes opera singers José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti. Throughout his decades-long career, he has performed at myriad opera houses and festivals and sung more than 144 roles, with his signature part being Mario Cavaradosi in Puccini’s Tosca. He has conducted more than 500 opera performances and symphonic concerts and released more than 100 recordings, for which he has earned a dozen Grammy Awards.

The renowned musician, who is currently the general director of the Los Angeles Opera, is surprisingly humble.

He has said that if he were to die tomorrow, he would fall to his knees and “give thanks to God for such a career.”

The final speaker is a mover and shaker in the world of mathematics who is proud to call Pomona College his alma mater.  

Mr. Starbird, a University Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, was given the national teaching award by the

Mathematical Association of America in 2007.

He is the co-author, along with Edward B. Burger, of the 2005 book Coincidences, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz: Making Light of Weighty Ideas (2005) and The Heart of Mathematics: An Invitation to Effective Thinking, which won a 2001 Robert W. Hamilton Book Award. He also co-authored an innovative textbook called Number Theory Through Inquiry.

No tickets are required for the ceremony, but you should plan on getting there early because parking can get tricky. You can also watch the entire ceremony from home, because it will be live-streamed at www.pomona.edu.

Pomona College is located at 333 N. College Way in Claremont. For more information on the commencement at Claremont’s oldest college, visit www.pomona.edu/commencement.

—Sarah Torribio


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