By Melissa Anderson, Executive Communications Specialist
San Jose State University graduates received congratulations and advice on being prepared for the circuitous route life often takes from U.S. House of Representative Leader Nancy Pelosi and honorary degree recipient Bob Ladouceur at Commencement May 23 in Spartan Stadium.
The Saturday event celebrated this year’s more than 8,500 students who earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in a wide range of disciplines from seven colleges at SJSU.
Family members and guests arrived as early as 7:30 a.m. to find an optimal seat to see graduates on the stadium floor. Occasional bubbles floated up from the stadium on the cool morning breeze as guests waited for the ceremony to start. One mother waited along the edge of the stands and dropped an orchid lei down to her child as the graduates processed into the stadium.
Many graduates donned decorated caps acknowledging the hard work to complete their degrees, while others emphasized their future plans. Others decorated their caps to evoke solidarity with their classmates—a swath of students from the College of Humanities and the Arts sat together with the same design on their caps.
“You become part of Spartan Nation,” said President Mohammad Qayoumi, during the ceremony. “Well over 200,000 Spartan alumni from all walks of life are making a difference in every corner of the world.”
Pelosi congratulated the students on joining the CSU Class of 3 Million. The 23-campus system has conferred degrees to 1 in 20 college graduates in the United States, with the alumni roster growing to three million with the class of 2015 graduates.
“Nancy Pelosi is the perfect candidate to speak to us today because she embodies the grit and determination that make us Spartans,” Qayoumi said, introducing Pelosi.
In her remarks, Pelosi touched on the beauty of diversity at SJSU.
“Have confidence in your education and be proud of your experience as one of the most diverse classes in America—and I might add 50 percent women,” she said. “The beauty is in the mix. It is true of San Francisco and it is true of this graduating class. Trust in the value of diverse and different perspectives.”
She also reflected on San Jose State’s influence on its surrounding community.
“You have been studying and living in the cradle of innovation,” she said. “You haven’t just been living here and going to school here. This school has contributed to the success of Silicon Valley in important ways.”
Pelosi shared a personal story of how she consulted her youngest child, a high school senior, before running for Congress.
“I never imagined one day I would go from the kitchen to Congress, from being a homemaker to a House speaker,” she said. “The opportunity was presented and I had to take inventory to be sure I was ready.”
Pelosi ran and has represented California’s 12th House district for more than 27 years.
“Leave here with the confidence that you are ready,” Pelosi said. “Know that you have been empowered by the strength of your value, the excellence of your education and the support of your families. When you encounter opportunities, be ready.”
During the ceremony, President Qayoumi conferred an honorary doctorate of humane letters to Bob Ladouceur, ’77 Criminal Justice, whose astounding 12-season, 151-game winning streak coaching football at De La Salle High School is the subject of the movie, When the Game Stands Tall.
Ladouceur, who played on the Spartan football team for two years as a student, shared how his journey to becoming a legendary football coach was indirect.
“My graduation from San Jose State was not an end point, but another beginning in my education,” he said, noting that his chosen field of criminal justice had few openings the year he completed his degree. “It was one of the curveballs life throws you. I retooled (my goals.) Two years later on a whim I answered a job announcement and that was where I spent the last 35 years.”
Ladouceur credited his education at SJSU with making him a lifelong learner who has always sought the truth.
“Continue your education independently or formally,” he said. “Be proud and be thankful. Seek out your parents, support groups and show gratitude. As we said after every practice on this field and every game, ‘It’s great to be a Spartan.’”
Following the speeches, the deans each took the podium to confer the master’s and bachelor’s degrees upon the graduates. As the ceremony finished, the graduates joined in singing the alma mater while guests cheered.