A Message from President Oliver about Commencement

March 27, 2020

Dear Pitzer Students,

I know you have been adjusting to your new surroundings as we prepare for the resumption of classes on Monday. Your faculty have been working extremely hard to transition their work to the virtual environment during these last two weeks. That hard work has been inspiring and I am so proud of our entire community for making the best of this unprecedented circumstance. I hope that this extended spring break has given you the time not only to adjust to this new environment but to recharge and refocus on the challenges that are before us.

Regrettably, I also write to inform you that we will be postponing our regular spring commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020. In light of the need for social distancing and the risks associated with large gatherings like commencement, postponement is a necessary preventative action.

Please understand that this is a postponement, not a cancellation. We intend to hold an in-person ceremony as early as this coming fall semester if the conditions allow for a safe gathering on campus. We will announce a date and time to give our graduating seniors and their families adequate time to make arrangements to return to campus for the ceremony if at all possible.

To the Class of 2020, I know this is incredibly disheartening news on top of the disruption to your studies, separation from your friends and the pressure of adjusting to a new learning environment. I hope you can find some solace in the fact that the sacrifices you are making have a significant and positive impact on the health of your family, friends and members of your community. I am proud of the maturity and spirit of cooperation that you are showing. I know that you will persevere and I look forward to the day when we can gather together to celebrate the transition of your Pitzer journey and the beginning of the next stages of your remarkable lives.

To all of our students, I thank you again. I hope that you and your families are well and healthy and I encourage you to be steadfast in following the recommended public health protocols during these difficult times. The final eight weeks of our semester will be much different than the Pitzer education we all hoped you would enjoy, but you will have the same classmates around you, the same faculty leading your studies and the same supportive staff beside you as we move forward. I wish you all the best and look forward to what lies ahead.

Provida Futuri,

Melvin L. Oliver

Speakers and Honored Guests

Laverne Cox (Photo by Melissa Hamburg)
Laverne Cox (Photo by Melissa Hamburg)

Pitzer College’s Class of 2019 has selected award-winning transgender actress, producer and equal rights advocate Laverne Cox to keynote this year’s commencement ceremony.

Cox is a two-time Emmy-nominated actress and Emmy-winning producer best known for her work on the critically acclaimed Netflix series Orange Is the New Black. Cox is the first trans woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television show and the first openly trans person to be nominated for an Emmy in an acting category.  She is also the first trans woman of color to produce and star in her own television show, VH1’s TRANSForm Me, which was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award. Cox is the first trans woman of color to appear on an American reality television program, VH1’s I Wanna Work for Diddy, for which she accepted the GLAAD Media Award for “Outstanding Reality Program.” She also received GLAAD’s 2014 Stephen F. Kolzak Award in recognition of her work promoting LGBTQ equality.

In addition to her acting, Cox is a renowned speaker who encourages her audience to live more authentically.

Traditionally, each Pitzer graduating class selects its commencement keynote speaker. In the upcoming weeks, the members of the Class of 2019 will also select their class speaker, student marshals and special guest. Professor Brinda Sarathy, director of Pitzer’s Robert Redford Conservancy, and Dean Ulysses J. “UJ” Sofia, the Weinberg Family Dean of the W.M. Keck Science Department, will serve as this year’s faculty marshals..