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University of the Pacific to confer degrees to resilient, inspiring graduates

May 8, 2020

The resilient, resourceful and truly inspiring lawyers, dentists, pharmacists, engineers, data scientists, poets and filmmakers who make up University of the Pacific’s Class of 2020 will forever be part of history.

The 2,001 undergraduates, graduates and first professionals made it through years of classes and seminars, quizzes and exams, internships and clinicals only to have their final semester interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. But in the true spirit of Pacific, they continue to move forward in fulfilling their purpose.

The Class of 2020 has dedicated itself to achieving goals despite the challenges that came with the pandemic. They have worked hard, made necessary and life-preserving adjustments, and along the way found opportunities to stay connected and engaged with their families, friends and Pacific. They have even helped others in need.

Balancing the deep desire to celebrate the Class of 2020’s success with the practical restrictions intended to stem the spread of COVID-19, the university will offer several ways to honor graduates. Special virtual ceremonies will be held beginning this week and a rescheduled in-person ceremony will be held when it safe to do so.

“The thing I will miss most about not having an in-person commencement is not seeing my professors,” said Hayley Graves ’20, who is graduating this month from McGeorge School of Law with juris doctor and master of public administration degrees. “This celebration is just as much about the professors as it is about the graduates. My professors taught me how to write, how to be a professional and how to be a successful lawyer. I would have liked one last time to thank them for that.”

Graduating Pacificans recognize the broader issues involved.

“If someone had told me four years ago that the conclusion of my college career would be defined by a global pandemic, I would not have believed them,” Christina Bouri ’20, a graduating international relations major, wrote in an Op-Ed piece for The Record. “And if I had known my last day on campus at University of the Pacific was going to be the day before spring break, I would have made the most of it. I would have visited every corner of campus, said goodbye to every professor and hugged every friend.”

Bouri will enter Harvard University’s Middle Eastern studies graduate program in the fall and she sees a bright future for the Class of 2020 and the world.

“It has been amazing to see the support that has been extended to people across the world who have been impacted by this pandemic,” Bouri wrote. “I am optimistic our global society will continue to show humanity to those who have faced famine, disease and uncertainty far before this pandemic began. Now is a time for an aligned commitment to these causes — one that my graduating peers and I can promote throughout the world as we embark on our new journey.”

First-generation college student Wajiha Tahir ’20 was “hurt” that the ceremonies were postponed, because she could not give her parents that moment to acknowledge the sacrifices they made in immigrating to the United States from Pakistan to give their family a better life. But she appreciates a lesson from the circumstances.

“I think this situation and Pacific taught me that I can adapt to any change the world throws at me,” said Tahir, who graduates with a degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing. “I’m amazed at how well my professors shifted everything to virtual learning. It was as if nothing changed. I want to continue this ability to adapt to my circumstances.”

Making a positive difference in the lives of others is a shared purpose among the Class of 2020 and each one of Pacific’s graduates has a unique story.

Visit the Ceremonies and Events webpage for website links for virtual ceremonies and events:

Interfaith Baccalaureate Service: 4 p.m. Friday, May 8

College of the Pacific: 8 a.m. Saturday, May 9

Benerd College: 11 a.m. Saturday, May 9

Eberhardt School of Business: 2:30 p.m. Saturday, May 9

Conservatory of Music: 7 p.m. Saturday, May 9

School of Engineering and Computer Science: 5:30 p.m. Saturday, May 16

Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy

In addition to more than 200 doctor of pharmacy degrees, the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy will confer 19 doctor of audiology degrees, 36 doctor of physical therapy degrees, and 142 additional undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees in applied science, athletic training, pharmaceutical and chemical sciences and speech-language pathology.

Virtual ceremonies for the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy will be 9 a.m. Saturday, May 16. Please visit the Ceremonies and Events webpage for the link for the virtual ceremonies and visit the school’s commencement webpage for additional information.

McGeorge School of Law

The Pacific McGeorge School of Law commencement includes juris doctor degrees going to 135 new attorneys. The school will also graduate 10 students with master of science in law degrees, 13 with master of laws degrees, 35 with master of public administration degrees, seven with master of public policy degrees, and three with doctor of juridical science degrees.

Please visit the Ceremonies and Events webpage for the date and link for the virtual ceremonies for McGeorge School of Law.

Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry

Some 234 graduates of the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry 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 is graduating 24 dentists from 13 countries, including Armenia, Cuba, Egypt, India, Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Turkey and, for the first time since the international program started in 1987, Guyana, Moldova and Yemen. They are earning doctor of dental surgery degrees and are now eligible to sit for dental boards in the United States. The university’s physician assistant program will confer 44 graduates with master’s degrees.

Please visit the Ceremonies and Events webpage for the date for the virtual ceremonies for Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.

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:

  • Camilla Saviz, professor and chair of the civil engineering department, was named University of the Pacific’s 2020 Distinguished Faculty Award winner during a Webex meeting where senior civil engineering students were presenting their senior projects. The University Distinguished Faculty Award is Pacific’s highest faculty honor. It is given for outstanding accomplishments by a tenured faculty member for teaching, research, creative endeavors and service to the university. Recipients of this award are nominated by colleagues and selected by the University Awards Committee. This year the award presentation will be made during Pacific’s virtual Commencement. A list of previous recipients can be found here.

  • Three people will receive the Order of Pacific, the highest award the university can give, intended to honor regents, faculty, administration and staff who have given distinguished service and made outstanding contributions to the university over a significant number of years. This year’s recipients are: Carrie Darnall ’78, associate provost for resource management, with 22 years of service; Berit Gundersen ’81, ’84, vice provost, with 34 years of service; and Lynelle Wiens, professor and program director for voice, with 42 years of services. Past recipients have come from across the university.

Class of 2020 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 67.
  • The Gladys L. Benerd School of Education will award 301 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees. University College, which offers educational opportunities for non-traditional students, will award 16 bachelor’s degrees. The two were recently merged to form Benerd College.
  • College of the Pacific, the university’s arts and sciences college, will award 401 bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
  • Conservatory of Music will award 55 bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
  • Eberhardt School of Business will award 151 undergraduate and graduate degrees.
  • School of Engineering and Computer Science will award 163 bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fields ranging from bioengineering to engineering physics.
  • Graduating students come from 28 states and U.S. territories outside California and 16 nations.

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