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Graduation ceremony highlights
Commencement speaker Ann Meyers Drysdale at College of Letters and Science graduation.

Commencement speaker Ann Meyers Drysdale at College of Letters and Science graduation.

Thousands of soon-to-be UCLA graduates, along with their families and friends, converged on Pauley Pavilion Friday for two commencement ceremonies for the College of Letters and Science class of 2013.

The events, which were expected to draw approximately 10,000 people each, are two of more than 60 UCLA graduation ceremonies, receptions and celebrations taking place during this graduation season. The Letters and Science ceremonies marked the return of commencement to Pauley since the building’s renovation was completed in October 2012. This is the first time the university has hosted two ceremonies for the college. The first ceremony began at 2 p.m.; the second was scheduled for 7 p.m.

In keeping with the theme of Bruin for Life, a concept that was woven throughout the ceremony, the keynote speaker was UCLA alumna Ann Meyers Drysdale, a highly respected pioneer for women in the worlds of sports and sports business.

Meyers Drysdale, a member of the UCLA Class of 1979, is vice president of the WNBA Phoenix Mercury and the NBA Phoenix Suns. She was the first woman to receive a full athletic scholarship to any American university and one of the first women inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. She was also a member of the United States’ first women’s Olympic basketball team, the only woman to have had a tryout for the NBA and the first player drafted by the Women’s Professional Basketball League.

Commencement_2013_students_shadesAt UCLA, she guided the Bruins basketball team to four conference titles and the 1978 national championship. She also competed in track and field, winning a national title in 1975, and was a member of the volleyball team. She ended her UCLA career as the first four-time All-American in collegiate basketball history.

In her address, Meyers Drysdale spoke of the different ways that Bruins have broken barriers and changed the world; the challenges and joys of growing up in a family of 11 children; and her journey to UCLA and the excellence she was able to accomplish while here.  She also spoke about the uncertainty she felt when she was invited to become the first woman to try out for an NBA team (the Indiana Pacers.) She also spoke of the importance of stepping outside of your comfort zone to challenge yourself — despite the uncertainty of what the future may hold —  and remain confident in your abilities.

“What I’ve learned on numerous occasions in my life is that blazing a trail is exciting, but it can also be really scary. It causes a nervous pit in your stomach; that feeling about the possibility, but also full of anxiety of the unknown uncharted waters, similar to what I imagine many of you are feeling today,” she said. “The key to success is finding your passion, working hard, taking risks that others are too scared to take and to have faith that it will take off.”

At the 2 p.m. ceremony, Meyers Drysdale was introduced by David Shamash, a classics major from Tarzana, Calif. A member of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity, Shamash served on the Undergraduate Students Association Council’s cultural affairs and financial supports commissions and worked for the Daily Bruin during his time on campus.

Commencement_2013_girls_flowers“With our diplomas in hand and a carefree smile on our faces, we now have the opportunity to share what we’ve learned and who we’ve become with the world around us,” Shamash said. “Understand that everyone around you has a story to share and a lesson to teach. The beauty of UCLA, more than its world-renowned academic esteem, lies in its diversity.”

In his address, Chancellor Gene Block spoke of the unwavering connection between UCLA and its alumni, citing Meyers Drysdale and baseball great Jackie Robinson as two prominent examples. He reminded graduates that their relationship with the university would not end at commencement; it would only change. They are, he said, Bruins forever.

“This is just a step in the next many steps in your life, and in a real sense you’re never going to leave UCLA and UCLA is never going to leave you. Those four letters are with you forever… There’s an unbreakable, unshakeable bond between UCLA and all of our alumni,” Block said.

Patricia Turner, dean and vice provost for undergraduate education, presented the bachelor’s degree candidates with the help of the deans of the College’s four divisions: Alessandro Duranti (social sciences), Joseph Rudnick (physical sciences), Victoria Sork (life sciences) and David Schaberg (humanities.)

After Block conferred the degrees, the crowd roared as the students moved their tassels from the right side of their mortarboards to the left, symbolically marking them as college graduates.

Although the College of Letters and Science ceremonies are UCLA’s largest, several other graduation celebrations took place Friday. The Luskin School of Public Affairs commencement celebration featured a keynote speech by Fred Ali, president and CEO of the Weingart Foundation. The Anderson School of Management; School of Theater, Film and Television; and Fielding School of Public Health also held commencement exercises Friday.

Ceremonies on Saturday will feature keynote speeches by NASA administrator Charles Bolden (at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science) and Pulitzer Prize–winning food critic Jonathan Gold (School of the Arts and Architecture.) Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, a former special adviser on education, peace and justice to the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, will speak at the ceremony for the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, of which he is dean.

There will also be numerous departmental graduation ceremonies and special celebrations throughout the weekend. For a complete list, visit the UCLA Commencement website.

 

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