“Class of 2021, I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to see all of you in-person today,” President Linda Oubré said, addressing graduates and their guests in Memorial Stadium on Saturday, May 22. “You’ve brought to Whittier your many different backgrounds and perspectives, and you have one big thing in common. You have endured the unthinkable: a global pandemic that shuttered our classrooms, impacted our families and communities, in ways in which none of us could have imagined some 15 months ago.”
Yet, they endured and they thrived, she said.
“Members of the Class of 2021, you made it,” Oubré said. “Today, because of your persistence and talent, you have earned your degree. Today commemorates your hard work, dedication, and determination to earn your Whittier degree, despite what the world has thrown at you. I personally want to thank each and every one of you for your patience, maturity, and resilience during this difficult time. Please know how proud I am of every single one of you.”
Masks were required for the in-person, socially distanced event, with each senior permitted to bring up to two guests. Masks could be temporarily removed for photos.
Watch the In-Person Graduate Celebration
Saturday’s celebration marked the end of a week honoring the graduating seniors, including a virtual commencement ceremony Friday evening.
“Today is your day. The last 15 months have been uncertain and challenging—but you’ve thrived,” Oubré said in her address to open the virtual ceremony. “I’m so proud of each and every one of you. Enjoy this moment and celebrate, but stay safe and healthy, so we can continue the celebration in person in the not-too-distant future.”
Looking first to the past, the virtual event’s student speaker Bianca Zermeno ’21 recalled the transformative start to her college journey: the Light of Learning ceremony that kicked off her class’ four years at Whittier. Surrounded by her peers, holding candles symbolizing the sharing of knowledge, a spark ignited. She felt optimistic as she saw “the calming fire in our eyes,” and knew she was in store for an unforgettable journey.
But beginning last year, “our class has faced unimaginable circumstances that we’re still learning to comprehend and deal with,” she said. Despite the challenges, they completed their degrees—Zermeno with a self-designed major in Global Media Marketing, which she plans to build upon with a master’s degree.
“We have all come together today to share this beautiful moment. I’m so honored to be surrounded by such passionate and inspiring individuals,” she said. “Class of 2021, I want you to think about the lighting ceremony again. Although we weren’t able to experience it this time, think of the flame you held. The glow and radiance of optimism in your hands, within your reach. The excitement for a new chapter to begin as you sought out and imagined your place in the world. Well, it’s radiating throughout you and I see a raging fire in front of me. So my question to you is this: what are you going to do with your fire?”
The promise of the years ahead also was spotlighted by Miguel Santana ’91, chairman of the Board of Trustees. After congratulating the seniors on their success in the face of an unprecedented year, Santana turned his attention to their potential to engage, lead, and transform the world.
“You are in a position, armed with your degree and your education, to be able to create a new community for all of us,” he said. “I challenge you to not accept the norms of the past, to not be afraid to question, ‘Why do things work the way they do? How can we do it better? How can we ensure that we are in a much more equitable and just society?’”
As the students continue their journeys beyond Whittier, Vice President of Academic Affairs sal johnston reminded them that they will always have the Poet community behind them, lifting them up. “So be well, be bold, and do good,” he said.
Watch the Virtual Commencement
Whittier College also organized virtual celebrations throughout the week to honor the achievements of its Latinx, Asian Pacific Islander Desi American, LGBT and ally, and Black seniors.
Proud and distinguished alumni returned to offer words of insight and encouragement, including Santana; Poonam Narewatt '13, who served in various capacities for the L.A. Mayor’s office; Andrea Shorter ’88, a strategic consultant and advisor, and commissioner and former president of the historic San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women; Cedrik Wallace ’94, an author and educator; and Detrick Manning ’19, who has accepted a new position as press secretary for House Agriculture Committee in Washington, D.C.
Watch the Cultural Graduate Celebrations
This fall, the Classes of 2020 and 2021 will come together for a Traditional Commencement Ceremony on September 24 at Memorial Stadium. The College is planning a special program that will honor their achievement, perseverance, and sacrifices.
Senior Spotlight: Daniel Sandoval '21
Senior Spotlight: Cole DiGrazia '21
Senior Spotlight: Harrison Fuller '21
Senior Spotlight: Ariana Galvan-Hernandez '21
Senior Spotlight: Sydney Thiroux '21
Senior Spotlight: Maya Choy '21
Senior Spotlight: Adonis Rivera '21
Senior Spotlight: Ariel Horton '21