SANTA CLARA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--More than 50 years after earning his first degree from Santa Clara University, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta returned to his alma mater to deliver the 162nd undergraduate commencement speech and ask the Class of 2013 to hold government leaders accountable.
“You are not just our hope for our better future. You are our future and the key to whether we remain a government of, by and for the people,” Panetta told the more than 1,000 new graduates, who lovingly chanted “U.S.A.” as he took the stage.
Panetta graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in political science in 1960 and graduated from Santa Clara University’s School of Law in 1963. He went on to serve eight terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, as President Clinton’s Chief of Staff, and as director of the CIA. He and his wife, Sylvia, founded the Panetta Institute for Public Policy in 1997 to promote leadership and careers in public service. They both received an honorary Doctorate of Public Service degree at the ceremony, more than 50 years after meeting on campus.
“Mixers were our version of computer dating,” joked Panetta, about the events where students from Catholic women’s schools would visit, and where he met Sylvia. “She is my love, my partner and my friend. We will celebrate 51 years of marriage in July.”
Panetta also taught a political science course at SCU and served on SCU’s Board of Trustees from 1988 to 2009.
“I am very proud of the Santa Clara University of today,” said Panetta. “You’re a 21st century campus, men and women reflecting the great diversity of our society, open to all faiths and beliefs, a broad curriculum that reflects our times and a commitment to your creed of building citizens who are leaders of competence, conscience and compassion.”
Valedictorian Ashley Armstrong, an anthropology major who played for the SCU women’s basketball team, spoke to her peers about how the Jesuit philosophy of “education of the whole person” had transformed her and her classmates.
“We are action-oriented and free-thinking individuals, prepared to make a positive impact on the world with the Jesuit dedication to excellence and commitment to others that Santa Clara University has instilled in us,” said Armstrong, who volunteered with the service group Santa Clara Community Action Program for two years and with the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative for four years at SCU. She was also a Global Social Benefit Fellow her junior year, traveling to Paraguay to study microfinance programs — an experience she called “humbling and transformational” in her speech.
Patricia and Stephen Schott ‘61 each received an honorary Doctorate of Public Service for their commitment to Catholic organizations and the Catholic community at large. Their foundation has helped several schools in the Bay Area and their generosity has helped fund a baseball stadium and the new admission and enrollment services building.
Founding artistic director of the Signature Theater Company in New York, James Houghton ’81, received an honorary Doctorate of Performing Arts for his success invigorating American drama and launching a program to keep performances at the company affordable.
Robert Mathewson, S.J., received an honorary Doctorate of Education for his work revolutionizing Jesuit high school education, including by introducing counseling departments.