For her athletic achievements, contributions to the sport of track and field, and her dedication to her community, Olympic Gold medalist and California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) alumna Carmelita Jeter was bestowed a California State University Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during CSUDH’s Commencement on May 17 and 18.
This year, the Class of 2019 enjoyed a more intimate graduation experience in the Dignity Health Sports Park’s Tennis Stadium with stands full of family and friends cheering on the graduates. The more than 3,600 graduates listened to words of well wishes, personal reflections, and insightful advice from six CSUDH alumni keynote speakers during six college-based commencement ceremonies, including Jeter who addressed the College of Health, Human Services and Nursing.
Jeter likened the achievement of earning a college degree in four years to the dedication it takes to compete in the Olympic Games every four years.
“Was it easy? No, it wasn’t easy. Did some of your friends who you started with decide they couldn’t finish college? Yes, that happens, too. Did things happen in life to cause you to say ‘Can I finish this? Can I go on?’ Of course, it happens to everyone,” said Jeter, who went on to offer graduates very tangible advice.
“You need the will to win—to write your goals down on real paper and watch them manifest. Write down what you want to become and where you want to go in the next four years. Yes, doors will close on you, emails won’t be read, and some calls won’t be returned. But guess what, if you know where you’re going it doesn’t matter who calls, and it doesn’t matter who answers your emails because you know your direction. So stay focused and keep your eye on the prize.”
The praise rolled out quickly and steadily for graduates’ staunch determination, perseverance, and many successes during five undergraduate ceremonies, and a ceremony just for graduate students.
During his welcome remarks, Thomas A. Parham, who led his first commencement as CSUDH’s president, suggested that the graduates be pragmatic about using the knowledge they have gained at CSUDH, and to use their voices judiciously as they move on to professional careers or higher levels of education.
“One opportunity each of you will have is to use your voice to speak up and speak out about those things that will really matter to you in this world,” said Parham. “Do so knowing that the academic and co-curricular education, facts, and data you have received during your time at CSUDH has sharpened your intellect, crystallized your thinking, and helped you to be more persuasive in the assertions you’ll advance and the arguments you’ll make.”
Meet Members of the Class of 2019
Alumni served as keynote speakers during all six commencement ceremonies:
- Carmelita Jeter (B.A., Physical Education, 2006), Olympic gold medalist and assistant coach for Track and Field at Missouri State University. Keynote address: College of Health, Human Services and Nursing.
- Rosemary Diaz (B.S., Physics, 2000), optics engineer for Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Keynote address: College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences.
- Chiraz Kelly (B.S., Business Administration, 2005), founder and president of Staffactory. Keynote address: College of Business Administration and Public Policy.
- Joseph Herrera (B.A., Labor Studies, 1999), vice president of corporate human relations (HR) for Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG). Keynote address: College of Arts and Humanities; the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences; and the College of Health, Human Services and Nursing.
- Jan Vogel (M.A., Education, 1974), executive director/CEO of the South Bay Workforce Investment Board (SBWIB). Keynote address: Saturday, May 18, 1:30 p.m., for the College of Business Administration and Public Policy; the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences; and the College of Education.
- Ted Ross (MBA, General Management, 2005) CIO for the City of Los Angeles and General Manager of the Information Technology Agency (ITA). Keynote address: Graduate Ceremony, which included graduates from all CSUDH colleges.
Diaz delivered her keynote address to the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences. During her remarks, Diaz paid homage to her physics Professor Ken Ganezer, who passed away in November 2018 after 26 years at CSUDH. Ganezer, who is renowned for his research into particle physics and is credited with devising an experiment to prove the existence of Strange Particles, helped launch Diaz’s career by putting her in touch with one of his friends at JPL who was looking to hire a summer intern.
“He [Ganezer] could talk about his research for hours if you had time to listen. I have many fond memories of him,” said Diaz. “Looking back at the experience, I can honestly say that [as a student researcher] I did not really contribute anything to the worldwide collaboration on neutrino physics, but I learned so much here about what it means to do research, to talk to and learn from people from all around the world, and develop the tools you need to do work that no one else has ever done before.”
During the graduate ceremony, Ross reminded students how special they are—that only 11 percent of Americans earn master’s degrees—and touted the importance of their mastery in their chosen fields.
“If you’ve ever seen a superhero movie, like Avengers, Wonder Woman, or Guardians of the Galaxy… you’ll know that every hero or heroine has an origin story. They don’t just appear. They are formed and shaped by their past,” said Ross. “Remember, Toros, your origin story includes Cal State Dominguez Hills. The friends you made here, the professors who taught you, and the campus you spent time in. After you leave here and rise to the challenge, don’t forget about us. Join the Alumni Association. Stay involved. Give to the next generation.”