Whittier College celebrates 121st Commencement

May 10, 2024

Scenes from Whittier College 2024 Commencement

Joyous applause filled the air Thursday, May 9, as Whittier celebrated its 121th Commencement at Memorial Stadium. The College graduated 256 students from its graduate and undergraduate programs under a sunny, Southern California sky.

The ceremony carried extra significance as many of the students couldn’t celebrate their high school graduation with typical pomp and circumstance due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This Class of 2024 is a remarkable group, not only because they have successfully bested the impact of COVID on their lives and studies, but because they have helped the Whittier College community do that as well,” President Dr. Kristine Dillon ’73 said.

After introductory welcomes from Dr. Dillon, Chair of the Board of Trustees Ron Gastelum ’68, and Interim Dean of Students Henry Gee, student speaker Alejandro Chávez Rodríguez ’24 took to the podium for his speech.

Alejandro ChavezChávez, a film major, delivered a speech about being thankful, hopeful, and committing to making the world a better place.

“Let's forgive quickly, let's not argue over trifles, let's love truly and laugh uncontrollably, and let's smile with our souls, because each reason, no matter how strange it may seem, is a note in the melody of our dance,” Chávez said. “Life may not be the party you expected, but as long as we're here, we have to keep dancing.”

The ceremony also featured recognition of Associate Professor Julie Collins-Dogrul receiving the Harry W. Nerhood Award for Teaching Excellence as well as honorary degrees being conferred upon Fred Claire, former Los Angeles Dodgers general manager, and activist and social entrepreneur Faisal Saeed Al Mutar.

Keynote speaker Jasmine (Juarez) Star ’02 gave her remarks before the students’ degrees were awarded. Her words focused on lessons about consistency, perseverance, creativity, and determination, calling Poets “gritty” and “scrappy.”

Scenes from Whittier College 2024 Commencement“The odds are always going to be stacked against us,” Star said. “And you want to know what we're going to do? We will be determined, because that's what Poets do. … And one day may you turn on your favorite song and find yourself dancing in the celebration of the future you built not just for yourself, but for future generations. Congratulations, Poets. You did it.”

Families cheered, waved signs in the air and blasted confetti as graduates crossed the stage to receive their diplomas. Business administration was the most popular major with 41 graduates, followed by 25 psychology majors, 24 biology and kinesiology majors each, and 22 students in the Whittier Scholars Program. There were a total of 65 Latin honors — summa cum laude, magna cum laude, and cum laude — conferred.

Dr. Dillon closed out the ceremony with a message of resilience and of achievement.

“You, the Class of 2024, have faced unprecedented challenges,” Dr. Dillon said. “Your journey began in 2020, a year that will forever be etched in history. In a time when you should have been celebrating with proms, athletic events, and senior nights, you found yourselves in a world turned upside down. Yet, you persevered and enrolled at Whittier, ready to embark on a new adventure. The early days of your college experience were marked by virtual classrooms and Zoom gatherings, far from the traditional college experience you envisioned. But you adapted, learned, and worked to create your personal Whittier College experience.

Scenes from Whittier College 2024 Commencement“... I congratulate each of you on your achievements. You have arrived today after a journey that has been anything but ordinary. As you step into this new chapter of your lives, know that the faculty and I are confident you are prepared for whatever comes your way. The future is yours to shape, and I have no doubt that you will do so with the same determination and spirit that have brought you to this moment.”

Graduates marked the momentous occasion with their friends and loved ones. Mathias Talavou ’24, a business administration major, hugged his classmates and fellow student-athletes.

“We stuck together and we stayed tight,” Talavou said. “I’m just really proud of not only my boys, but all of my COVID classmates. We got to the end, we finished, and now we’re getting our degrees.”