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Leon Panetta to speak at 2003 Commencement Convocation

Full graduation coverage, including schedules, speakers, FAQs and a look back to Commencement 1903

– Leon Panetta, former White House chief of staff and U.S. congressman from California, will speak about "the challenge of being the greatest generation" at the University of California, Berkeley's 2003 Commencement Convocation on Thursday, May 15.

The 4 p.m. event at the Greek Theatre will honor the estimated 10,000 students who became eligible during the school year for undergraduate and graduate degrees at UC Berkeley.

No diplomas will be awarded at Commencement Convocation. Instead, degrees are conferred at individual ceremonies held from May 14-27 by some 50 schools, colleges and departments on campus.

About 6,000 UC Berkeley students will graduate this month; the rest earned degrees during the summer and fall of 2002. The campus will have awarded roughly 7,000 bachelor's degrees this school year; the rest are graduate degrees.

Panetta was appointed by President Bill Clinton to be his chief of staff in 1994. Prior to that appointment, Panetta served as director of the federal Office of Management and Budget. From 1977 to 1993, Panetta was a U.S. Representative from California's 16th (now 17th) district. He authored the Hunger Prevention Act of 1988; the Fair Employment Practices Resolution, which extended civil rights protections to House of Representatives employees for the first time; and numerous successful measures to protect the California coast, including creation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Panetta currently co-directs, with his wife Sylvia, the Leon & Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy based at California State University, Monterey Bay - a campus he helped establish on the site of a former military base, Fort Ord. The institute serves as a non-partisan study center for the advancement of public policy to help the nation and its communities meet the challenges of the 21st century.

In addition to Panetta's speech, convocation will include an address by UC Berkeley's top graduating senior, Ankur Luthra, who will receive this year's University Medal for his academic record and future goals. Luthra, who maintains a 4.0 grade point average, is editor-in-chief and founder of the Berkeley EECS Research Journal.

Luthra, an electrical engineering and computer sciences (EECS) and business administration major, recently won a 2003 Rhodes Scholarship. Combining his interests in computer science and business, Luthra founded Computer Literacy 4 Kids (CL4K), a Berkeley-based non-profit, after noticing a troubling digital divide among low-income students. He plans to pursue a master's degree in computer science when he attends Oxford University this fall.

Also speaking at this year's convocation is Ronald Ostrow, who graduated from UC Berkeley 50 years ago. A Bay Area native, Ostrow went to UC Berkeley for his undergraduate and graduate work, although he did not finish the master's program in journalism. Instead, he went to work at a small newspaper in Paradise, Calif. His newspaper career then took him to the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco bureau of The Wall Street Journal. In 1962, he joined the Washington, D.C., bureau of the Los Angeles Times. He remained at that paper until his retirement in 1998.

Three weeks of graduation ceremonies will begin at UC Berkeley the day before convocation. On May 14, UC Berkeley professor Walter Alvarez will speak at the combined graduation ceremonies for the Classics department and the Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology program.

At some of the campus's other individual commencement ceremonies in May, several nationally known speakers are scheduled to address graduates. They include:

  • Susan Orlean, staff writer for The New Yorker, who will speak at the Graduate School of Journalism on Saturday, May 17, at 2:30 p.m. Orlean is well known for her book, "The Orchid Thief," which was adapted for film.

  • Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO, will speak at the School of Social Welfare graduation on Saturday, May 24, at 2 p.m.

  • Eric Schmidt, chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Google.com, will speak Saturday, May 17, at 1 p.m. at the Information Management & Systems graduation. Schmidt has a PhD in computer science from UC Berkeley.

At Commencement Convocation on May 15, the senior class will announce the campus project that will receive its senior class gift, which is close to $48,000 and rising. "This is significantly more than we have raised in the past," said campaign advisor Debbie Ginzburg. "More than a quarter of the class has donated so far, and we're not finished yet."

One of three campus projects selected by the senior class will receive those funds. In the running are repair to the fountain outside of Kroeber Hall, which was a gift from the class of 1914; a scholarship endowment and stipends for undergraduate research.

For a current listing of UC Berkeley's individual graduation ceremonies, go to http://www.urel.berkeley.edu/seniors/commencement/.