Skip to content

  • Print
Pacific News

Pacific to graduate 1,900 pharmacists, lawyers, teachers and more

Best-selling author James Patterson to help celebrate milestone
May 9, 2017

New data scientists, attorneys, pharmacists, dentists, engineers and teachers will be celebrated over the next several weeks as University of the Pacific confers more than 1,900 degrees at four commencement ceremonies in three cities.

"Each year I feel such a great sense of pride for the graduating class about to take on new challenges in their communities, and the dedicated faculty who help our students explore new worlds and achieve great accomplishments," said Pacific President Pamela A. Eibeck. "These students are truly prepared for success in their lives and careers, and ready to contribute to their communities."

Among the graduating seniors will be winners of the Fulbright, Boren and Critical Language scholarships, the most prestigious scholarships in the country, as well as an Olympian, a triathlete who is graduating magna cum laude with a bioengineering degree, and a runner who holds several records for her home country of Pakistan.

The largest of the ceremonies will be 9 a.m. Saturday, May 13, at Alex G. Spanos Center on Pacific's Stockton Campus, with diploma and hooding ceremonies throughout the day. Three other commencement ceremonies are scheduled through June 18.

James Patterson photo credit David Burnett
Author and Commencement speaker James Patterson. Photo credit: David Burnett

Founded in 1851 as the first chartered university in California and later the state's first co-educational university, Pacific is accustomed to "firsts." This ceremony is another example as best-selling author James Patterson will give the commencement address and receive an honorary degree as the first Patterson Scholars at Pacific celebrate their graduation. The author and his wife, Susan, through their Patterson Family Foundation, fund scholarships for aspiring teachers, and Pacific was the first institution on the West Coast to have student teachers benefit from the program.

"I definitely feel honored and have a sense of pride knowing I'm among the first here at Pacific to receive the Patterson Scholarship," said Denise Amaya, of Manteca, one of five Patterson Scholars. "It's great knowing that we had this support. To me it was more than just financial. It was motivation for when the times were tough. Someone out there wanted to help me achieve my dreams and what a privilege that has been."

Amaya will teach for a year before pursuing a master's degree. Fellow Patterson Scholar Ellen Dettman, of Galt, also will begin teaching after graduation.

"The Patterson Scholarship has allowed me to attend Pacific and be a part of the outstanding education program here," Dettman said. "Without this scholarship and the Pattersons I would not have been able to receive this education. I would like to thank them for their generosity and giving me the ability to receive an excellent education."

Taylor Dorsey, of Pleasanton, will enter graduate school and plans to be an elementary school teacher or special education teacher.

"I would not have had the opportunity to get the awesome education I did at Pacific without his help," Dorsey said.

The other Patterson Scholars graduating Saturday include Jennifer Montemayor and Amanda Utterback.

Other firsts this year include the first group graduating from the Master of Science in Data Science program with 15 working professionals earning degrees at the San Francisco Campus. That program was recently expanded to the Sacramento Campus. And the first four graduates of the Master of Arts in Food Studies, the first such program on the West Coast, also will be graduating on Saturday.

After the morning commencement, six schools and colleges will award individual diplomas. Following centuries-old ritual, undergraduates in simple black robes will sweep the tassels on their mortarboards from right to left, and new PhDs will receive hoods lined in orange and black and trimmed in a color denoting their field of doctoral study. The students graduating on Saturday come from throughout the United States and 16 foreign nations, including Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, Croatia, India, China and Russia.

And if the class before them is an indicator, the future is hopeful. Nearly 9 in 10 members of the Class of 2016 had jobs or had been accepted to graduate or professional school, were completing a post-graduate internship or fellowship, or serving in a military or community service position just six months after graduation. In addition, Pacific alumni salaries rank No. 2 in California compared to similar institutions, according to the White House College Scorecard.

More commencement ceremonies on Saturday

Pharmacy and Health Sciences

In addition to 217 doctor of pharmacy degrees, the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences will confer 37 doctor of physical therapy degrees, and more than 136 additional undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees in science and applied sciences. There will be no guest commencement speaker this year.

Commencement ceremonies for Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences graduates will be 9 a.m. Saturday, May 20, at Alex G. Spanos Center.


The Pacific McGeorge School of Law commencement includes juris doctor degrees going to 132 new attorneys. The school will confer master of laws degrees (LLM) on another 17 students and 11 students will graduate with the school's new master of science in law degree (MSL). The graduates come from around the country and from nations such as Nigeria, China, Colombia, Austria, Russia, Afghanistan, Mozambique and Indonesia.

The commencement speaker will be 1982 McGeorge graduate Paul Dassenko, the CEO and president of Risk Transfer Underwriting Inc. and principal and sole shareholder of AzuRe Advisors Inc.

McGeorge School of Law will hold commencement ceremonies at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 20, at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, 1515 J St., Sacramento.


The final event is the June 18 commencement of the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. Some 200 graduates will be awarded doctor of dental surgery degrees, bachelor of science degrees in dental hygiene, master of science degrees in orthodontics, and certificates of completion in advanced oral and maxillofacial surgery, among others. The school's International Dental Studies program, celebrating its 30th anniversary, is graduating 21 dentists from nine countries, including for the first time dentists from Ireland and Nepal, who are earning doctor of dental surgery degrees. They are now eligible to sit for dental boards in the United States.

In keeping with school tradition, there will be no guest commencement speaker.

The Pacific commencement season concludes with the ceremony for the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 18, at The Masonic, 1111 California St., San Francisco.

More honors

Pacific awards its highest honors to distinguished individuals within and beyond the campus community during commencement season. Among the honors to be bestowed this spring:

  • Bhaskara R. Jasti, professor of pharmaceutics and medicinal chemistry in the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, will receive the Distinguished Faculty Award. One faculty member each year is selected for this honor, which recognizes outstanding accomplishment in teaching, research, creative endeavors and service to the university.
  • Three people will receive the Order of the Pacific, which recognizes members of the university who have given distinguished service and made outstanding contributions to the university over a significant number of years. They include Kathleen Lagorio Janssen, a 1968 graduate of the Gladys L. Benerd School of Education, who served on the Pacific Board of Regents from 1994-2007 and again after being re-elected in 2008. She and her husband, Dean, in December donated $1 million for the Janssen-Lagorio Performance Center. Silvio Rodriguez, professor of chemistry in the College of the Pacific for 38 years, will receive the honor posthumously. He died in January. And Cynthia Wagner Weick, founding director of the Powell Scholars Program and professor of management in the Eberhardt School of Business and School of Engineering and Computer Science, for her 27 years of service.

Class of 2017 overview
Statistical highlights of the new graduating class (numbers do not include the McGeorge School of Law or Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry):

  • New graduates range in age from 19 to 78 
  • 23 are veterans or the children of veterans 
  • 924 are women; 618 are men
  • 7 are Native American; 62 are African American; 147 are Hispanic; 622 are Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander; 518 are non-Hispanic white; 107 identify themselves as multi-ethnic; and 79 are listed as other
  • The Gladys L. Benerd School of Education awarded 253 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees
  • The College of the Pacific, the university's arts and sciences college, awarded 404 bachelor's and master's degrees
  • The Conservatory of Music awarded 34 bachelor's and master's degrees
  • The Eberhardt School of Business awarded 212 undergraduate and graduate degrees
  • The School of Engineering and Computer Science awarded 188 bachelor's and master's degrees in fields ranging from bioengineering to engineering physics

For more information on Commencement 2017 events at University of the Pacific, visit or follow #UOPacific17.

Media contact:
Keith Michaud | 209.946.3275 (office) | 209.470.3206 (cell) |

Tags for this article:

Join University of the Pacific on: Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn Youtube