Six distinguished speakers gave words of advice, inspiration, and congratulations at the Commencement 2022 ceremonies in the Dignity Health Sports Park Tennis Stadium. Four of the speakers were CSUDH alumni, and all were eminent leaders from Southern California’s private or public sectors.
Michael Lawson, CEO and President of Los Angeles Urban League, was both a keynote speaker and CSUDH’s recipient of a CSU honorary Doctor of Laws.
Lawson is an accomplished lawyer, community advocate, and business leader with a passion for public service. Since 2018, Lawson has been president and CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League, which since 1921 has worked to help African Americans and other underserved communities achieve true social equity, economic self-reliance, power, and civil rights. Under Lawson’s leadership, the organization continues to offer education, job training, and programs targeting workforce development, entrepreneurship, health, and quality of life issues. He congratulated the graduates, urging them to become the leaders society needs.
“Kudos to you and those individuals who supported your diligent efforts getting to this day. One of the best things you might have learned is all of your goals are worthy of being achieved.
“You must remember, however, that you are the principal architects of your lives. You should determine what skills and expertise are needed for you to function at the highest levels in whatever endeavors in which you choose to engage. Obtain those skills, and you will become successful.”
Keith Arem is CEO and President of PCB Productions, having enjoyed success in the worlds of video games, interactive media, music, graphic novels, animation, motion pictures, television, and virtual reality. Arem graduated with a special major bachelor’s degree from CSUDH in 1991. He told graduates:
“Your job in life is to discover what you love and follow that dream. Because if COVID has shown us anything, it’s that life is precious, and we have to do things while we can. My hope is that you discover things in life that truly make you happy. It turns everything that you do from a job into a gift. You have the opportunity to use your education to find that gift.”
Maria Villa is a principal with the law firm of Lathrop & Villa in Rolling Hills Estates, which she co-founded in 1992. She is a proud Toro, having graduated from CSUDH with her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 1982. She also currently serves as chair of the CSUDH Philanthropic Foundation Board.
“We truly are our ancestors’ wildest dreams! It is now up to us to help others in the Toro Nation reach their dreams. Toros, I leave you with an affirmation. When that self-doubt creeps up, and it will, I want you to remember the following: I am a Toro! I received an outstanding education, and the skills I need to take on the mantle of leadership. I worked hard to earn a seat at any table where decisions are made. I will lead with compassion and excellence, because I am a Toro!”
Jon Binkley is director of the Aerospace Corporation’s Launch Support Facility, where he leads a team to provide support for a wide range of rocket and satellite launches. He graduated from CSUDH with his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics in 1986. He emphasized the importance of not being afraid to pursue a brighter future:
“You got where you are tonight by hard work and sacrifice. Keep up the good work. Anything you accomplish throughout your career will take hard work and sacrifice. Don’t take the easy way out.”
Holly J. Mitchell, chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, represents the 2 million residents of L.A. County’s Second District. She commended the graduates for their resilience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that their determination will serve them well in the future.
“You persevered. You dug deep and found the level of courage and strength that you probably never knew you had. But that’s what got you here today. And it’s going to be that same strength that will help you navigate—starting Monday morning—through the rest of your life, for all those things that you’re going to encounter. Can you feel that? That’s the strength in your body.”
Nancy Lee, RN, MSN, is senior vice president and chief clinical officer at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), the largest provider of care for children in Los Angeles County. She is a double alumna of CSUDH, having earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1990 and her Master of Science in Nursing Administration in 1994.
“If we learn anything from history, it is that a setback is always followed by a tremendous time of growth and rebuilding. And I have every confidence that the decade we share now will bring us even more impressive shifts in healthcare…and you will get to be the power behind their implementation.”