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Summer15_Commencement

Delivering messages of optimism in difficult times, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Professor Woody Studenmund make Commencement 2015 a ceremony to remember

Meeting with Oxy student leaders earlier this year to ask what he should talk about at graduation, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was asked by one student how he remained hopeful while dealing with such a challenging job. "Despite all these responsibilities and all the problems and headaches that come with them, I am confident and optimistic about our mission, about our future, about this country, and about public service," Johnson told the 471 graduating seniors and 3,800 family members gathered in Remsen Bird Hillside Theater at Occidental's 133rd Commencement ceremony May 17. "And I know that much can be achieved if you are willing to try."

"Consider a career in public service, in service to others," Johnson urged graduates. "The thing I value most about my own career is my public service. No matter what I accomplish in private life, as a lawyer, I know that the first paragraph of my obituary will be about my public service. The opportunity to serve others and to make a difference is self-satisfying. It simply makes you a happy person."

In addition to Johnson, the College gave an honorary ­degree to PIMCO Group chief investment officer Daniel Ivascyn '91 "for reaching the pinnacle of success in the world of asset management," in the words of presenter Robby Moore, Elbridge Amos Stuart Professor of Economics.

And in an emotional tribute, a posthumous degree was awarded to U.S. Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Scott Studenmund, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in June 2014. "We are proud to honor Scott for his outstanding record of leadership, his proud service to his country, and his unquenchable spirit that left so profound an impression on so many," President Jonathan Veitch said in presenting the award to Scott's father, Woody Studenmund, Laurence De Rycke Professor of Economics at Occidental.

In accepting the degree, Studenmund said: "I firmly believe that if each American did one more thing to solve our country's problems, we could have the country for whose aspirations Scott was willing to die."