The 54th Annual Commencement Ceremony for Pacific Oaks College was held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on Saturday, May 3, 2014. The 2014 graduating class was one of the largest in its history. Over 300 students participated in Saturday’s ceremony in front of a few thousand cheering friends and family members.
President Ezat Parnia, Ph.D., recognized that the graduates did not make it to this day alone; they not only had the support of the PO community but from each person who touched their lives. He turned the applause to those members in the audience, mothers and grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers, siblings, children, cousins, friends and neighbors, and to the faculty on stage who made this momentous accomplishment possible. Ending his remarks, Dr. Parnia added, “I am confident that our graduates, this class, will repay the commitment you made to them with a meaningful career and through the impact they will make in their communities. They leave today as agents of social justice and change, and that’s something we can all be proud of. My congratulations to each and every one of you.”
Graduate Laura Wallerstein gave an inspirational speech reflecting on the journey she and her fellow classmates have taken at Pacific Oaks. “We learned to question assumptions. Embrace differences. Celebrate diversity. Identify injustice. Get involved. Advocate for change. Work for social justice. Have courage. Explore life experiences. Ponder and process. Grow,” stated Wallerstein.
The Honorable Dorothy Wright Nelson, senior judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, delivered the commencement address, sharing stories of learning and teaching from her own life. She recounted her earlier connections with Pacific Oaks from spending summers at the Children’s School with her aunt Lu as she taught there and through her grandniece receiving her master’s degree a few years ago. Judge Nelson spoke to the heart of Pacific Oaks’ mission and principles as she concluded “we must teach about the principles of the oneness of humanity that the earth is truly one country and mankind its citizens. We must regard humanity as a single individual. If pain or injury afflicts any part of that body, the result is suffering for all.”
Pacific Oaks College is known for providing life-changing educational experiences to adults and non-traditional students. On Saturday this was clearly showcased when 71-year-old Mildred Carter walked across the stage to receive her Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education. Carter completed her courses online and stated that “it helps me to stay in touch with people; I learn a great deal which helps to slow the deterioration of my brain tissues (thereby decreasing the frequency of my “senior moments”); and I have been inching my way toward my dream of obtaining a master’s degree. I hope to someday become a school advisor or teacher in the field of child development.”
Addressing the newest alumni of Pacific Oaks College with a final “charge” was Cheryl Greer-Jarman, Core Faculty member and Faculty Senate Chair. “Seize this opportunity, branch out by staying connected with your PO family, build on the accomplishments represented by today’s events, and help others choose a future grounded in solutions not problems, hope and not despair, courage and not fear, and love and not indifference. We salute you. Consider yourself charged.”