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Let the speechifying commence!
Graduates to hear from government officials, screenwriters, high-tech execs, labor organizers — and, of course, academics — in a whirl of ceremonies

| 07 May 2003

The campus’s graduation season will feel like it’s well and truly begun when the senior-class procession into the Greek Theatre opens the May 15 Commencement Convocation ceremony. Never mind that departmental ceremonies will have begun the preceding day, continuing through May 27. Impressive as they often are, there’s something special about seniors from every discipline on campus assembling in the Greek to celebrate not only their own accomplishments, but that of 8,000 or so of their fellows.

Between 4 and 6 p.m., a range of speakers will do their best to send the assembled graduates out into the world with a sense of both their achievements (substantial) and their civic obligations (considerable). The afternoon’s keynote address will be delivered by Leon E. Panetta, whose lengthy résumé of public service includes stints as a U.S. congressman (between 1977 and 1993), director of the federal Office of Management and Budget, and White House Chief of Staff under Bill Clinton.

Between those opening and closing remarks, brief speeches will be given by Chancellor Robert Berdahl; Mark Ornellas ’71, president of the California Alumni Association; University Medalist Ankur Luthra (see adjoining story); and Class of 1953 Alumnus Ronald Ostrow.

Individual college, department, and unit graduation ceremonies begin Wednesday, May 14, and continue through Tuesday, May 27. Featured speakers range from Berkeley faculty members (not all of whom call home the departments they’ve been invited to address) to distinguished personae from the arenas of science, politics, entertainment, and good works. Among the array of invited speakers this spring are:

Phil Angelides (Business), California State Treasurer and former chair of the state Democratic Party;

Dana Bash (Political Science), CNN White House correspondent;

Sydney Brenner (Molecular and Cell Biology – Undergraduate), 2002 Nobel Prize winner, founder of the Berkeley-based nonprofit Molecular Sciences Institute;

Tom Campbell (Economics, Mathematics), dean of the Haas School of Business, former five-term congressman, California state senator, and law professor at Stanford University;

Albert Fishlow(Development Studies, Latin American Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Peace and Conflict Studies, PEIS), former professor of economics and dean of International and Area Studies at Berkeley, now on the faculty at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs;

Dolores Huerta (Chicano/Latino Celebration, Social Welfare – Undergraduate), co-founder of United Farm Workers, director of the famous national table-grape boycott of the 1970s, and a vice-president of the California AFL-CIO;

Cynthia McKinney (African American Studies), a former five-term member of Congress from Georgia;

Mary Nichols (Energy and Resources Group), California Secretary of Resources since 1998, a Clinton-era EPA administrator, and a former staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council;
Susan Orlean (Journalism), a New Yorker writer whose book The Orchid Hunter was the basis for the film Adaptation;

Kavita Ramdas (Social Welfare – Graduate), president/CEO of the Global Fund for Women, which makes grants to women’s-rights groups outside the U.S.;

James Schamus (English), screenwriter (The Hulk), producer (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and professor of film theory at Columbia University;

Eric Schmidt (Information Management and Systems), CEO of search-engine powerhouse Google, who holds a Ph.D. in computer science from Berkeley;

Joe Spano (Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies), a department alum who is an Emmy Award-winning actor known for his work on Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue;

Irving Weissman, M.D. (Molecular and Cell Biology – Graduate), noted stem-cell researcher, professor of biology at Stanford, and 2002 California Scientist of the Year

A variety of student awards and scholarships are presented during commencement season; see the June 5 Berkeleyan for a wrapup of these.