Whether it was an ear-shattering whistle from a fellow graduate sitting close by, or the thunderous cheers of a group of friends and family in the stands clad in the same colored T-shirt, the reading of each graduate’s name during California State University, Dominguez Hills’ (CSUDH) commencement ceremonies elicited unique responses that could be shared by the entire Class of 2016.
The cheers actually began long before the names were called and CSUDH President Willie J. Hagan shook the hands of the more than 3,000 graduates in in the StubHub Tennis Stadium on May 20 and 21. The loud din first erupted from the audience when the soon-to-be Toro alumni emerged from the tunnel at the beginning of the five college-based ceremonies, and it continued as they took their seats in front of the newly designed commencement stage.
During his opening remarks, Hagan stressed the value of time, both wasted and “used wisely.” He recommended that the graduates avoid wasting time worrying about what other people think of them as they progress in life, and to avoid procrastination, particularly when it comes to “putting in the time” to develop strong relationships with family and friends.
“When I was young, I wish I knew that friends and family are more important than material things. You may total up the wealth at the end of your life, but I guarantee if you don’t have the richness and wealth of having family and friends you will feel very poor,” he said. “Invest in your careers, and the stock market—make lots of money, if that’s important to you—but be sure you also invest in your family and friends while you’re young.”
Brenda Llamas, who graduated summa cum laude with her bachelor’s in child development, came to CSUDH “without a clue“ regarding what she should major in, but quickly found both the professors and staff at the university to be very committed to student success in academics, and their general wellbeing.
“I am extremely grateful to Dr. Sophia Momand, one of the staff physicians, as well as the Student Health Center, for literally saving my life by finding a nodule in its early stages,” said Llamas, who was diagnosed with Stage 1 papillary thyroid cancer in fall 2013. “Every single professor I’ve had at CSUDH has impacted me in their own unique way. Whether it be positive or negative, I feel that the bits and pieces I’ve taken from each course has made me the person I am today.”
The Class of 2016 experienced a new commencement tradition, the Alumni Pinning Ceremony.
California State Senator Isadore Hall III, who represents Carson, where CSUDH is located, and surrounding communities, said that statistically “I should not be standing before you today, as an African-American male born and raised in Compton,” during his keynote address for the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences.
“I knew that the only way for me to break the cycle that has plagued my community for generations was to choose a different path. My path was paved with the building blocks of education,” said Hall, who has been a state senator since 2014, and previously served in the California Assembly. “And today, with a lot of work and a lot of sacrifice, my path is paved with a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees and two doctorate degrees. …Not bad for a poor black boy from Compton.”
Actress Lela Rochon, a cinematic star who has graced the big screen in such hits as “Waiting to Exhale,” alongside Whitney Houston and Angela Bassett, and “Why do Fools Fall in Love” with Halle Berry and Vivica Fox, served as keynote speaker for the College of Arts and Humanities.
Class of 2016: Top Graduates Share Goals, Mentors, and plans for the future.
Rochon (’86, B.A. Communications) believes it is the perseverance that she learned at CSUDH that has made her the person that she is today. She also shared her “pet peeve” with today’s “social media driven society” when it comes to fame, and encouraged the graduates to not “endeavor to be famous for nothing.”
“If fame and recognition are your goals, that’s perfectly fine. Be known and celebrated for achieving greatness in an area that you have worked hard for, not by how many followers you have,” she said. “As an actor, I had to endure daily rejection. I had to beg for the opportunity just to be seen. In my day, we couldn’t leak a video or buy a million followers to gain recognition. You got recognized for your work.
“The hard work, commitment and determination that I cultivated while at CSUDH is what allowed me to persevere, what empowered me to push past all the ‘No’s,’” Rochon continued. “As a Cal State Dominguez Hills graduate, my pursuit for greatness will never stop, and yours can’t either.”
Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) President Jordan Sylvestre suggested the graduates reflect on the connectedness they experienced as part of the CSUDH campus community, and to share the idiosyncrasies of their time on campus as they move forward with their lives.
“Today, I simply ask you, as you move forward in the world, to tell your story—every beautiful moment, every disastrous month, every tear and every smile,” said Sylvestre. “Your crazy professor, or your crazier friend who sat next to you in class. The people and jobs that have challenged you; the ones we’ve lost in the fire; the friends, tests and days that are engraved in the memories around this university. Tell the world about your experience at Cal State Dominguez Hills.”
Luis Patiño, senior vice president and general manager of Univision Local Media Los Angeles, addressed the College of Business Administration and Public Policy, which at 790 graduates was CSUDH’s largest assemblage in all five commencement ceremonies.
Patiño began his remarks by discussing the importance of family in one’s life journey, asking “How can we not start there?” and how at an early age he “fell in love with all things Hollywood,” and the entertainment and television industry. Eventually, he experienced what he called “retro-acculturation” to reconnect with his native culture—his “Mexican roots”—which led to his fascination with Spanish television.
“I now have the great privilege of running the Los Angeles TV station that my family and I grew up watching, and the L.A. radio stations we grew up listening to,” said Patiño. “In mass media, we have the power and the responsibility to shape new generations of young minds, such as yourselves, about the importance of being civically engaged; of voting; of living healthy lives; of higher education; taking care of our environment; of building financial wealth for your families; and most importantly, embracing diversity in all its forms.”
Keynote speakers for other commencement ceremonies offered words of wisdom and encouragement to the graduates in equal measure. Alumnus Gary Radine (’77, M.A. Applied Behavioral Science), the recently retired president and CEO of Delta Dental California and its affiliate companies, addressed the College of Health, Human Services and Nursing; and Arturo Delgado, superintendent of schools for the Los Angeles County Office of Education, offered advice to graduates from CSUDH’s College of Education and College of Extended and International Education.
Timothy Hosea, who earned his bachelor’s degree in communications/media studies, will make significant changes to his career “trajectory” now that he has graduated, but first will he pursue a Masters in Humanities at CSUDH.
“I’ve been a flight attendant for over 11 years and I am ready for that adventure to come in for a landing and a new career adventure to take off,” said Hosea, who was then asked to peer 10 years into the his future. “Hopefully, without any delays, I’ll be teaching at the community and university college level.”