Whittier College to Celebrate 120th Commencement Ceremony

April 24, 2023

Whittier College will celebrate its 120th Commencement Ceremony on Tuesday, May 2, at 6:30 p.m. in Memorial Stadium on the Whittier College campus.

During the event, journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan and director Arthur Allan Seidelman will each receive an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters. Los Angeles Community College District Chancellor Francisco C. Rodriguez will deliver the keynote address.

Honorary degrees are Whittier’s highest honor, reserved for individuals whose lives have personified the convictions, ambitions, values, and accomplishments celebrated at the College.

The honorees will also have the opportunity to offer a few words of advice to the approximately 360 undergraduate and graduate students expected to receive their degrees.

In addition, Los Angeles Community College District Chancellor and Whittier College Board of Trustee member Francisco C. Rodriguez will deliver the keynote address. Leilanie McGregor '23, a first-generation student who transferred to Whittier College from El Camino Community College, will be the student commencement speaker.

Honorary Doctorate Recipients

Erin Aubry KaplanErin Aubry Kaplan is a contributing writer to the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Politico, HuffPost and elsewhere. She is a former weekly opinion columnist for the Los Angeles Times, the first African American in the paper's history to hold the position. Kaplan first appeared in the monthly independent newsmagazine Accent L.A., a small publication dedicated to a large mission of providing thoughtful, literate, alternative coverage of black Los Angeles. From 1987 to 1992 at Accent, Kaplan authored everything from book reviews to commentary and began developing a voice at once broadly political and deeply personal. She went to work in 1992 for the Los Angeles Times, for a short-lived but much-heralded section called City Times, created in the aftermath of the civil unrest to expand meaningful coverage of the central city.

Kaplan essentially continued the mission begun by Accent L.A., covering the Crenshaw district, South Central and events affecting L.A.’s disparate black communities and black communities at large.

Arthur Allan SeidelmanWhittier College alumnus Arthur Allan Seidelman (‘58), is an American director whose career spans the mediums of film, television and theater. His works are distinguished by a humane and sympathetic depiction of characters facing dramatic ethical challenges.

Seidelman’s honors include two Emmys, five Emmy nominations, the Grand Prize from the New York Film and Television Festival, prizes from the Chicago, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Heartland Film Festivals, the Humanitas Award, Peabody Award, Western Heritage Award, and three Christopher Awards. His most recent honor is the 2023 Sharm El-Sheikh Sameha Ayoub Award for his Contribution to Understanding between Nations and Peoples.

Seidelman’s connection to Whittier College extends beyond his bachelor’s degree. He has maintained a relationship with the college through the decades by giving support to alumni theater productions, giving guest lectures on the topics of acting, directing and film appreciation, and has offered guidance and support to students and young alumni on their journeys toward a career in theater and film making.

Keynote Speaker

Francisco RodriguezWhittier College Board of Trustee member Francisco C. Rodriguez, Ph.D. has served as Chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) since 2014. LACCD is the largest community college district in the nation with nine accredited colleges, and over 200,000 student enrollments. As CEO, he is responsible for strategic and long-range academic planning, fiscal stewardship, facilities and capital outlay, and enrollment management.

A noted scholar and education activist, Rodriguez was a principal architect for the statewide California Promise Program, which was the result of LACCD-sponsored legislation that provides all first-time, full-time California students with two years of tuition-free education at any of the state’s community colleges.

Rodriguez has 30-plus years of experience as a faculty member and administrator within California public higher education, and speaks and writes on a variety of higher education topics, including transformational leadership, racial equity and social justice, educational opportunity, transfer, student success, foundations and philanthropy, governance, equity and inclusion, STEM education and workforce development.