Pacific celebrates 'resilient and accomplished' Class of 2023

University of the Pacific’s Class of 2023 was celebrated for successfully earning its degrees with a series of events, culminating in the all-university commencement and diploma and hooding ceremonies on May 13.

Click through the photo gallery above and read on for highlights from the week-long commencement celebrations.

Saturday, May 13 | All-university commencement and diploma and hooding ceremonies

Hundreds of students processed onto historic Knoles Lawn under picturesque blue skies Saturday morning to receive degrees from California’s first and oldest university as thousands of family and friends cheered them on. The ceremony honors students from all three campuses in Sacramento, San Francisco and Stockton.

President Christopher Callahan praised graduates for pursuing their passion for learning despite the obstacles of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many students to learn online for a year and a half.

“You faced challenges that Pacificans before you never had to face. You had to navigate the dangerous and unprecedented disruption of life as we know it,” Callahan told graduates. “You not only met those challenges, but you thrived. You showed unbelievable strength, courage, resilience, adaptability and creativity.”

Student speaker Brooke Han Tran ’23, vice president of Associated Students of the University of the Pacific, said her classmates learned to use their voices for advocacy during their time at the university.

“I am proud to recognize all the work we’ve done to build the Pacific legacy,” Han Tran said. “We’ve learned to be good stewards of the community, supporting Miracle Mile and local businesses with the establishment of the Pacific Shuttle, generously donating our time via College Corps, engaging in Greek Life philanthropy, volunteering at St. Mary’s to make sandwiches, developing a proposal to advance the Stockton homeless shelter into a navigation center, pushing divestment from fossil fuels and much more impactful work."

The university’s highest honors were bestowed during the ceremony, including The Order of Pacific, which recognizes the university’s most impactful leaders, teachers and mentors. The honorees include Regent Norm Allen ’88,’94; Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry Daniel Bender; former Director of Career Services Deb Crane ’01, ’08; Professor of Economics Bill Herrin and Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Maria Pallavicini.

An honorary doctorate of business administration was presented to alumnus and former regent Jim Mair ’68. The Silicon Valley real estate executive was instrumental in negotiating the purchase of the San Francisco Campus, which houses the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and other graduate programs. Mair told his grandchildren in the audience “It’s no longer Papa, it’s Dr. Papa.”

Professor of History Ken Albala received the Distinguished Faculty award. The renowned food and cooking expert for excelling in teaching, research and service. 

Members of the 50th reunion class of 1973 participated in the Memorial Rose Walk during the commencement processional, carrying orange roses in honor of classmates who have passed away.

After the all-university commencement ceremony, diploma and hooding ceremonies were held for College of the Pacific, School of Engineering and Computer Science, Conservatory of Music, Eberhardt School of Business, Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Benerd College.

More than 1,300 degrees were conferred and hundreds more will be awarded in the coming weeks. The School of Health Sciences’ diploma and hooding ceremony is Saturday, May 20 at 10 a.m. at the Alex G. Spanos Center.

The McGeorge School of Law will celebrate graduates Saturday, May 27 at 2 p.m. at the Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento and the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry will honor graduates Sunday, June 18 at 2 p.m. at The Masonic in San Francisco.

a student stands at a podium inside Morris Chapel

Interfaith Baccalaureate Service

Friday, May 12 | Interfaith Baccalaureate Service and “Last Lecture”

Before the excitement of Saturday’s commencement, an intimate baccalaureate service was held Friday inside Morris Chapel for students, faculty and staff.

Student speakers from the Muslim and Sikh faiths reflected on their educational journeys and how they were able to balance academics with their religion.

“I came to Pacific thinking I would have to choose between my faith and my education, but I was so wrong. Pacific welcomed me with open arms and countless resources,” said Leen Yousef ’23. 

Though the university has Methodist origins, it has evolved into a welcoming space for all of Pacific’s rich interfaith community.

Retiring Professor of Economics William Herrin provided the traditional last lecture in which he urged students to not focus solely on what is wrong in the world, but to also acknowledge what is right.

May 9-12 | Cultural Affinity Graduate Celebrations

Celebrations for the university’s affinity groups were held throughout the week leading up to commencement to recognize the accomplishments of graduating students while acknowledging their unique challenges and experiences, including students who identify as Latinx; LGBTQ+; Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi; Black and Native American.

Each event included culturally significant moments, including a blanketing ceremony for Native American students. Graduates received the “Blanket of Education” as a sign of respect and celebration.

“Growing up as a Native American in Stockton, it was often difficult to find places that represent my culture. But my experience at Pacific as an undergraduate and in law school helped close that gap,” said McGeorge School of Law graduate Timothy Perez, ’20, ’23, a member of the Northern Valley Yokuts tribe. “I am prepared for a legal career in which I hope to help my tribe and potentially other tribes.”

phi beta kappa inductees

Phi Beta Kappa inductees

Friday, May 12 | Phi Beta Kappa Induction Ceremony

Five students were inducted into Phi Beta Kappa—the nation’s oldest and most well-known academic honor society. The prestigious group recognizes high achievement among those in the liberal arts and sciences.

Students who participated in the ceremony were Keldon Chase (2022 inductee), Rosabella Lopez, Lorraine Lee, The Raven Elise McGurll and Amy Wheeler. Dianne Roberts also was selected to join.

“I worked really hard to join Phi Beta Kappa. I even rearranged my schedule and made an independent study to join,” said Amy Wheeler ’23, who majored in geological and environmental science and cello with minors in pre-law and sustainability. “This organization is really valuable to me and has a lot of meaning, so I’m really grateful I was able to be inducted.

“Pacific is the best small-scale liberal arts school and education I could have asked for. I’ve gotten to become friends with all my teachers, and I know those relationships will last me a lifetime,” she said.

Membership is by invitation with those joining typically within the top 5% of their graduating class. Pacific is one of only 10% of colleges and universities in the United States to host a chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.

students pose for a picture

Faith Davies Award Recipients

Friday, May 12 | Faith Davies All-University Leadership Awards

The outstanding contributions of students, advisors and organizations were celebrated with the annual leadership awards.

From educating the Stockton Police Department on the Sikh faith to helping international students transition to campus life, award recipients have had a marked impact on the campus and community over the past year. Read more about the Faith Davies honorees here.

Watch highlights from the 2023 commencement