2022 was a special year for Pitzer College, a chance to honor three classes of recent graduates who overcame unprecedented challenges to reach the milestone of graduation.
“Today, we not only celebrate your achievements, we recognize the strength and character you’ve shown and shared—this is a ceremony and a testimony,” President Melvin L. Oliver said during his opening remarks to the Class of 2022. Held on Saturday, May 14, the ceremony was Pitzer’s first in-person commencement in three years.
That day, the soon-to-be college graduates walked across Pitzer’s campus in their signature white and orange regalia. Among the throng were some of the first cohort of Pitzer’s Inside-Out Pathway-to-BA program, who were formerly incarcerated and were now about to hold a Pitzer diploma in their hands.
The Class of 2022 Commencement keynote speaker was Black Voters Matter Fund Co-Founder LaTosha Brown, who opened her remarks singing “This Little Light of Mine.”
“I wanted to start with that song because you, my friends, you are the light unto the world at this moment, and I wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate and say … you did it!”
Brown went on to share a call to action for the graduates:
“You’re going to have to be visionaries. You’re going to have to not think of yourselves as citizens of America, but founders of a new America.”
You’re going to have to be visionaries. You’re going to have to not think of yourselves as citizens of America, but founders of a new America.2022 Keynote Speaker LaTosha Brown
Two senior class speakers also shared wisdom with their classmates, families, and friends. Milena Passage ’22 reflected on the transitional period ahead through the lens of childhood playgrounds: “Our lives are just one big playground, filled with an indescribable amount of joy mixed with continuing lessons of cooperation, reasoning, and care.” Diamond Pham ’22 encouraged her fellow graduates: “I don’t think I know a group that is more hardworking, courageous, and dedicated.”
Lily Fillwalk ’22 and Madison Quan ’22 spoke about donating the senior class gift to the FirstGen Program, and Alumni Board President Diana Bob ’02, an attorney who owns Native Law PLLC, gave the alumni greeting: “Over time, I do hope you come to appreciate your Pitzer education as your most valuable possession. Trust your training … and continue to be courageous in your actions as you build your life.”
The words of wisdom and the celebrations did not end with the Class of 2022. On May 21, Pitzer welcomed back many members of the Class of 2020 for their commencement ceremony, which had been postponed for several years due to the pandemic.
Graduates, now that you have that all-important piece of paper… what will you do to help another human being? How will you mentor, teach, and uplift?2020 Keynote Speaker Sikivu Hutchinson
Keynote Speaker Sikivu Hutchinson—an award-winning writer and activist and an adjunct professor at Pitzer—stepped up to the podium. Hutchinson challenged the Class of 2020: “Graduates, now that you have that all-important piece of paper… what will you do to help another human being? How will you mentor, teach, and uplift?”
Recognizing the unique circumstances of their graduation, Senior Class Speaker Jan Bragado ’20 said: “Rather than the traditional sendoff, we’re here as a homecoming.” Meanwhile, Senior Class Speaker Amanda Martin-Lawrence ’20 expressed gratitude: “I would like to thank the Class of 2020 for all of the beautiful memories that we have shared and continued to build.”
Michele Siqueiros ’95, the president of the Campaign for College Opportunity, delivered the alumni greeting as a Pitzer alumna and trustee—and the first in her family to have graduated from college.
“Let’s all dedicate ourselves to ensure that we are going to take this education and do something that matters and fight for the kind of democracy and America that looks like all of us, that lifts all of us up,” she said. “No time in history needs you more than today.”
After the ceremony was over, the Class of 2020 joined the Class of 2021 (which had a virtual commencement last year) for a combined party with food, family, and friends for an unforgettable—and long overdue—reunion. Pitzer is incredibly proud of all the recent graduates and enthusiastically welcomes them as the next generation of alumni. To relive the memories from the celebratory weekends, you can see the recordings of the commencement ceremonies and the Flickr photo albums at www.pitzer.edu/commencement.