Family and friends joined the Occidental College community at Remsen Bird Hillside Theater in celebrating the Class of 2013, the largest class in the College’s 126-year history.
Under sunny California skies, commencement speaker Andrew Delbanco told the 552 graduates that their liberal arts education was a point of distinctiveness among other graduating students.
"You will see very few like yourselves," said Delbanco, the Mendelson Family Chair of American Studies and Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. "There are 18 million undergrads in the United States and only 100,000, or 5 percent, go for a college like yours."
Named "America’s Best Social Critic" by Time in 2001, Delbanco was awarded the 2011 National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama ’83 "for his writing that spans the literature of Melville and Emerson to contemporary issues in higher education."
"You, all of you at this College, regardless of color and gender, you are America’s most conspicuous minority. You have to give as much as you get. It’s not prepping you for a career, but prepping you for life," said Delbanco, who was also awarded an honorary degree. "A college like Occidental is a rehearsal space for democracy."
The day was marked by moving tributes by some of Oxy’s most distinguished alumni who were also awarded honorary degrees, including David W. Burcham ’73, president of Loyola Marymount University; Sarah Newhall ’70, interim CEO of Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette in Portland, Ore.; and Soroosh Shambayati ’86, senior adviser of the LJ Group.
President Jonathan Veitch, who led the conferring of degrees, told graduates prior to the ceremony that their class would be a memorable one for him personally. "You were the very first class that arrived when I arrived," he said. After four years together on campus, he was the first to welcome them into the family of Oxy alumni.