Enjoying the mild early June gloom temperature during California State University, Dominguez Hills’ (CSUDH) 2018 commencement May 18 and 19, more than 39,000 loud and proud family and friends cheered on the Class of 2018—the largest in university history—as they made their way to the stage in the StubHub Center Soccer Stadium.
There to congratulate and take photographs with the graduates were Michael Spagna, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at CSUDH, and Willie J. Hagan who led his final commencement as the university’s 10th president, and marked the beginning of his retirement after 22 years of service in the California State University system.
During his remarks, Hagan encouraged the graduates to not fear risk, but to embrace it; to never make small plans; and at the end—quoting Hunter S. Thompson—to skid into the grave “broadside, in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming, “Wow! What a Ride!”
“Go out there and embrace questions without answers. Get beat up by unexpected outcomes. Live your life fully with all the good times and the bad times, the successes and failures, the loves won, and the loves lost,” said Hagan, who announced his retirement in September 2017. “That’s the life I want you to live—fully engaged, fully alive, and exciting. Take more risks. Be bold. Free yourself from doubt and think big.”
Out of the nearly 4,000 bachelor and master candidates who applied for graduation more than 3,300 participated in the two-day commencement. Along with Hagan, they also received congratulations and encouraging words from Associated Student, Inc. President Justin Blakely and two distinguished keynote speakers: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Dave Carothers, partner of the law firm Carothers DiSante & Freudenberger LLP.
Garcetti, who addressed the College of Arts and Humanities, College of Education, and the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences on May 19, touched on the growth of the South Bay’s economy—referencing such local companies as Tesla and proudly touting the Big Falcon Rocket soon to be built by Space X in the Port of Los Angeles. He also shared his thoughts about the importance of crossing borders.
“We hear so much about borders these days. That they are things to fear, and that they are things to build. Borders are helpful to define a nation and people, but we should all be border crossers. …Harvey Milk came out, Rosa Parks boarded a bus, and Emma Gonzales spoke out. They didn’t come just to mark history, they—and you—are here to make history,” said Garcetti. “You are about the future, and you are about the present—right now. Don’t wait for anyone to tell you you will be in charge of things. Take it from me, you are in charge today. Never cede the power that you have to anybody.”
Morgan Williams, who was conferred a bachelor’s degree in communications/media studies, is already taking Garcetti’s advice. Her ambitious and specific plans start with attending graduate school, then launching a career that will begin with sports broadcasting and transition to someday co-hosting “Good Morning America.”
“I am so blessed to be here today. I thank God, I thank my parents, and I thank the faculty who have meant so much to me and have helped me get where I stand right now,” said Williams, who was on CSUDH’s track and field team. She also offered advice to the future Class of 2022. “When you come to Cal State Dominguez Hills you will need to just stick it out. Stay enrolled, stay focused, and get involved on campus. Then you will have a wonderful time as you learn.”
An alumnus of CSUDH, Carothers (1982, B.S., business administration) shared a few of his life stories and lessons with the graduates during his commencement address on May 18, including his time in the Navy, and what it took for a kid from South Los Angeles to get to college and create a successful law career. He also focused on the importance of critical thinking in any situation, which he developed early in his career helping him win 97 of his first 100 cases.
“The toughest obstacle you must overcome is yourself. Don’t get caught up in the idea that you are the only one with fears and doubts. Others have the same struggles,” said Carothers. “What separates you is your ability to control these fearful thoughts and overcome them. So do not let false evidence become real. Silence the doubts and have faith in your abilities.”
Angel Garcia, who graduated with his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, has already lined up a job at a law firm, but plans to return to college after a year to earn his master’s. When he transferred as a junior to CSUDH he moved into student housing and kept to himself while attending classes, but that didn’t last too long.
“I got bored and started getting involved on campus. I joined a fraternity and we began doing community service work, including an academic decathlon. Many of the kids we helped in the program had experienced some kind of abuse or were from broken homes. Now they are excelling in school, and some have 4.0 GPAs and are college bound with full-ride scholarships,” said Garcia. “It was such a great feeling knowing that I was helping—that I made a difference in their lives in some way. I just had to get started, and this university has so many opportunities to make that happen.”