Dr. Mary A. Papazian (Photo by: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications)

Dr. Mary A. Papazian (Photo by: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications)

Media contacts:
Pat Harris, pat.harris@sjsu.edu, 408-924-1748
Robin McElhatton, robin.mcelhatton@sjsu.edu, 408-924-1749

SAN JOSE, CA — In accordance with academic tradition, Dr. Mary A. Papazian will be inaugurated as San José State University’s 30th president at the end of her first academic year in office. The event will begin at 9:30 a.m. May 4 on Tower Lawn.

The ceremony will be enriched by Papazian’s personal history and journey as the descendant of Armenian immigrants, as an English literature professor, as one of 11 women to serve as presidents of Cal State campuses.

SJSU asks members of the media to RSVP now so that arrangements can be made for parking and reserved seating.

Distinguished speakers

She will be joined by Cal State and San José State leaders, and friends and family including her husband and daughters. Confirmed speakers are listed below.

Among the symbols of office to be bestowed upon her is a bronze and glass medallion designed and forged at San José State, reflecting her ethnic heritage and her love for learning and the poetry of John Donne.

Papazian and Pasquerella each will deliver a major address. Papazian will describe her dreams of leveraging San José State’s legacy and Silicon Valley location to transform the university into the world-class urban college campus. Pasquerella will speak about demonstrating the value of the humanities at public universities like SJSU and in this time of science and technology.

Inauguration Week events

During the evening after the inauguration, the university community will gather for “Inspiration to Innovation,” a gala that this year will honor Papazian and world-renowned playwright and alumnus Luis Valdez, who will receive the 2017 Tower Award. Through his work, Valdez elevated the real-life experiences of the Chicano community while exploring universal themes of social justice and human rights.

The inauguration and gala will be preceded by a related series of events including Legacy of Poetry Day featuring acclaimed author and poet Maxine Hong Kingston and two films on Armenian history, the documentary “They Shall Not Perish” and the historical drama “The Promise.”

More information on the inauguration and gala is available on the SJSU website.


  • Mary A. Papazian, President, San José State University
  • Sam Liccardo, Mayor, City of San Jose
  • Timothy P. White, Chancellor, California State University
  • Debra S. Farar, Member, CSU Board of Trustees
  • Lynn Pasquerella, President, American Association of Colleges and Universities
  • Mildred Garcia, President, California State University, Fullerton
  • Michael Kimbarow, Professor and Chair, SJSU Academic Senate
  • Hector Perea, ’17 Business Administration, President, Associated Students of SJSU
  • Coleetta McElroy, ’97 Public Administration, President, SJSU Alumni Association
  • Edward A. Oates, ’68 Mathematics, Chair, Tower Foundation of SJSU
  • Archpriest Father Datev Harutyunian, The Reverend Jethroe Moore II and a cross-denominational group of Bay Area faith leaders

About San José State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing more than 7,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 220,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.