It’s tradition at commencement to invite guest speakers to inspire the graduating class and celebrate their achievements. This year, Cal Poly Pomona is welcoming several inspiring and successful individuals to speak at the ceremonies from May 20 to 22.
“Cal Poly Pomona has incredibly talented alumni and corporate partners that go above and beyond to support and assist our students as they explore career paths and imagine the many ways that they can make a difference in the world,” said Daniel Montplaisir, Vice President for University Advancement. “The 2022 Commencement speakers are emblematic of the caring and passionate people that are associated with a nationally ranked university committed to social justice and economic mobility.”
Guest Speaker and Honorary Doctorate Recipient for the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences
In addition to being featured a guest speaker, alumna Violet Palmer (’88, recreation administration) will be presented with an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.
During her time as a student-athlete, Palmer played a leading role on the Bronco Women’s basketball teams that won back-to-back National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II championships in 1985 and 1986.
After graduating, she went on to referee women’s high school and basketball games. Palmer continued her impressive endeavors when she officiated the Women’s National Basketball Association’s inaugural season in 1997 before going on to the National Basketball Association, officiating 930 regular season games, nine playoff games and the 2014 All-Star game.
Palmer continues to share her passion for the sport, training officials for collegiate women’s basketball games in multiple leagues and visiting Cal Poly Pomona frequently to encourage players on the women’s team to dream big.
“Being on the CPP team gave me confidence as a student-athlete while having the opportunity to learn discipline, work ethic, and sportsmanship,” Palmer said when she was honored as Distinguished Alumni in 2016.
Guest Speaker and Honorary Doctorate Recipient for the College of Engineering
Alumnus Larry Gates (’87, civil engineering) will receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Science at the College of Engineering ceremony on May 22.
Gates is the founder and president of the consulting, engineering and land-surveying firm DRC Engineering, Inc. One of his greatest accomplishments in the engineering field include helping transform the former March Air Force Base in Riverside into distribution facilities for Amazon and UPS, the construction of shopping centers in Chino Hills, Tustin and Burbank and the redevelopment of projects across Southern California.
Gates cherishes his connection to CPP and believes in giving back. He is the outgoing president of the CPP Philanthropic Foundation and is a long-time member of the College of Engineering Dean’s Leadership Board.
He and his wife, Amy, have financially supported both university-wide and college-based programs and funded the endowment of three scholarships, one in honor of his late father, James Gates.
“My dad was the first in his family to go to college,” Gates said. “My mom worked as a secretary and put him through school. My No. 1 philanthropic push is helping those who are the first in their families — particularly Latino, Black and other students who haven’t had as many opportunities to get into college.”
Guest Speaker for the Don B. Huntley College of Agriculture
A.G. Kawamura is a third-generation produce grower and shipper from Orange County. He served as Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture from 2003 to 2010 and was the founding co-chair of Solutions from the Land, a nationally recognized nonprofit that is developing innovative and sustainable climate smart collaborations for 21st century agriculture.
Currently, Kawamura serves on multiple boards and advisory committees including the Farm Foundation Board; Western Growers Board and Former Chair; Roots of Peace Board; CSU Agricultural Research Institute, Board of Governors; Ag Advisory Committee for the Chicago Council; Bipartisan Policy Center, Ag & Forestry Task Force.
As a progressive farmer, Kawamura has a lifetime of experience working within the shrinking rural and urban boundaries of Southern California. For over 40 years, he has pursued a lifelong goal of working toward ending hunger and malnutrition.
Kawamura has worked closely with regional food banks and stakeholders to create exciting urban ag projects that focus on nutrition, hunger, education and advanced food systems.
Guest Speaker for The Collins College of Hospitality Management
Throughout his career, Gregg Patterson gained experience in managing, teaching and writing.
Patterson became the general manager of The Beach Club in 1982 and spent 34 years in this role before retiring. He then went on to a new adventure and founded his own company called “Tribal Magic!!!” in 2016. Currently, he is serving as the president for his company.
In addition, Patterson has been a featured presenter at various business workshops, club management seminars, assistant manager conferences and hospitality forums in North America, South America, Europe and Asia.
He teaches club management courses at The Business Management Institute and was an adjunct professor at The Collins College of Hospitality Management for 14 years. Patterson is also a visiting lecturer at various universities both in the United States and around the world.
Guest Speaker for the College of Environmental Design
Mia Lehrer is dedicated to improving quality of life through landscape architecture. This is evident through her role as founder of Studio-MLA, a landscape architecture firm that inspires human connection, unites communities and restores environmental balance.
She has led the design and implementation of ambitious public and private projects, including the Hollywood Park Racetrack redevelopment and its new SoFi Stadium, associated public parks, San Francisco’s Levi’s Plaza Revitalization and Los Angeles County’s Natural History Museum Gardens.
Lehrer also participated in many urban river-related projects including the Rio Tietê in São Paulo, the L.A. River Taylor Yard G2 Park and the Upper L.A. River and Tributaries Master Plan.
Among her recent accomplishments, Lehrer received the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum’s 2021 National Design Award for Landscape Architecture, the ASLA LaGasse Medal, and the ICON Award from L.A. Design Festival.
She served on President Barack Obama’s U.S. Fine Arts Commission and sits on numerous boards including the L.A. Department of Water and Power Commission and the Los Angeles Parks Foundation.
Guest Speaker for the College of Business Administration
Pamela Maynard is an accomplished individual in the technology industry. She is currently the CEO of Avanade, the leading provider of innovative digital, cloud and advisory services, industry solutions and design-led experiences across the Microsoft ecosystem.
Maynard is passionate about building a people-first culture for Avanade’s more than 56,000 global employees while driving sustainable, responsible growth centered around client success. She has dedicated more than 25 years of her career towards helping clients harness the power of digital innovation to renew and grow their businesses.
Under her leadership, Maynard has continued to expand and sharpen Avanade’s commitment to creating a culture where everyone is welcome to bring their authentic selves to work, as well as where diverse perspectives, backgrounds and skills are valued as critical differentiators to supporting clients, colleagues and communities.
Guest Speaker for the College of Science
Passionate about science and education, Sep Eskandari received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in biology from Cal Poly Pomona, then earned doctoral degree in physiology from UCLA.
After completing a post-doctoral fellowship in neurobiology at UCLA, he joined the faculty of biological sciences at Cal Poly Pomona in 2000. As a faculty member, he led an active research program with more than 40 peer-reviewed publications (nearly all with student co-authors). His research focused on the molecular physiology and pharmacology of brain neurotransmitter transporters.
Currently, Eskandari (’93, chemistry, ’95, masters in biology) serves as the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at Montana State University Billings. He leads all operations related to the academic mission of the university, including undergraduate and graduate academic programs offered by five colleges, faculty affairs, grants and sponsored programs, academic policy, academic planning, academic resources, library, international studies, and institutional research. In addition, Eskandari leads key university initiatives in support of student and faculty success.
Guest Speaker for the College of Education and Integrative Studies
Since her first day of kindergarten, Sue Johnson knew she wanted to be a teacher, a goal that became a beacon for her educational career.
As the third oldest of seven siblings growing up in Pomona and Ontario, college seemed to be unattainable, but Johnson never gave up on her dream. She worked part-time jobs through high school and college, and with the support of grants, she was able to become the first in her family to graduate from college at Cal Poly Pomona. Johnson (’79, liberal studies) earned her master’s degree in school administration from Cal State San Bernardino and a doctorate in education from USC.
She is passionate about providing opportunities for all students to succeed and be on the path toward college and career readiness.
Johnson began working in the Savanna School District in 1990 as a curriculum coordinator and has served in Savanna since that time in the positions of Director of Curriculum, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services and Superintendent of Schools.
Her accolades for her commitment to students and public education include being Orange County Superintendent of the Year in 2013 and the Buena Park Citizen of the Year in 2018.