Commencement Ceremony Appreciation

On Tuesday, May 24th we celebrated the accomplishments of our students at Saddleback College’s annual commencement ceremony.  It was another smashing success with over 2,000 attendees and a program featuring terrific speeches from student Pontus Goeeransson, Goodwill CEO Frank Talarico, and Rabbi Heidi Cohen, congratulatory remarks from Board of Trustees President Tim Jemal and Chancellor Gary Poertner, a beautiful rendition of the national anthem by student Taylor Strickle, and introductions and presentations by Trustees Dave Lang, Marcia Milchiker, Terri Whitt, T.J. Prendergast, Jim Wright, and Bobbie Jay, Academic Senate President Blake Stephens, and ASG President William Vassetizadeh.  And of course the highlight of the day was seeing our glowing students and their proud friends and families.  The following link provides a video of the ceremony:  http://ch39.saddleback.edu/vod/2190-Custom-v2.mp4.

Added to the richness of the ceremony was the participation of our faculty, staff, and management.  While commencement celebrates the accomplishments of our students, it also celebrates the accomplishments of our faculty, staff, and management.  As stated in my commencement remarks:

“Today we are gathered to celebrate the achievements of our graduates who recognized the importance of higher education and wisely chose to come to Saddleback College to succeed.  And succeed you have.  On behalf of our faculty, staff, and administrators, thank you for choosing Saddleback College on your journey, a journey that will now take you as far as you want to go toward your educational, professional, and personal goals and aspirations.  

Allow me to take this opportunity to thank all of our faculty who set the high academic standards that challenge and inspire our students and prepare them for the future.  These high academic standards are represented throughout the college in many ways, such as: 

  • Our impressive transfer numbers.  This year, over 3,500 of our students are transferring to four-year colleges and universities.  Over the past five years we’ve had a 19 percent increase in total transfers, including a 7 percent increase in transfers to the UC system, and a 43 percent increase to out of state and private colleges;
  • Our impressive honors program: Saddleback honors students have an 85 percent acceptance rate to UCLA, an 88 percent acceptance rate to UC Irvine, and a 100 percent transfer acceptance rate overall;
  • Our 100 career technical education programs that give our students a leading edge in the job market;
  • Our stellar nursing program that was recently placed first in the entire nation in license exam rates;
  • Our outstanding paramedic program, the official provider of paramedic education for south Orange County;
  • Our successful Cinema-Television-Radio program that sends students to Hollywood every year; 
  • Our nationally recognized WALL Literary Journal that won First Place by the American Scholastic Press Association;
  • Our Pathway to Law School program that is one of only 24 of the state’s 113 colleges which provides our students a direct pathway to six of California’s prestigious law schools including USC, UC Irvine, and UC Davis;      
  • Our many state and national athletic team championships, including our football and men’s basketball teams that each finished second in this year’s  state championships;
  • Our incredible student athletes, who continue to impress academically.  This year, 57 percent of our student athletes are transferring to four-year colleges and universities and are being awarded over $1.75 million in scholarships.   Moreover, 42 percent of our student-athletes were named to the athletic honor roll, and 11 percent of those have a perfect 4.0 grade point average;
  • Our nationally-recognized speech and debate team that recently placed fourth overall in the nation, and routinely competes and triumphs against teams from many of our nation’s finest four-year colleges and universities;
  • Our strong science programs, including Bridge to Engineering, which places students on an academic pathway to become engineers.  This year, three of our Bridge to Engineering students were accepted to NASA’s National Community College Aerospace Scholars Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and one was accepted to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory;
  • Our Veterans Education and Transition Services program that provides resources and support to our student veterans, and which has become a model program for other colleges throughout the nation; and 
  • Our renowned dance, music, and theatre performances which have put Saddleback on the map as the arts and cultural center in south Orange County. 

It is for these achievements and many, many more examples that Saddleback College is recognized as a leading institution of higher education throughout California and the nation.  We owe most of this success to our outstanding faculty, as well as to our staff and administrators.  I want to personally thank our faculty, staff, and administrators for their tremendous dedication to students, and for their outstanding support and collaboration.”

Our faculty, staff, and management have helped these students succeed and set them on paths to achieve their goals and aspirations.  You have positively changed the lives of thousands, and we were honored and thrilled to have all of you there so that we could celebrate, recognize, and thank you.

We also want to take this opportunity to thank the faculty, staff, and management who worked hard on making the commencement ceremony a success.  Commencement Committee:  Erlynne Ballo, Erin Long, Emily Maynard, Tim Swiss, Madeline Hernandez, Abigail Freeman, Brooke Sauter, Rania Mesri, Leslie Humphrey, Jessica Cha, Michael Betzler, Steven Weibel, Mark Kruhmin, Jennie McCue, Marlene Sais, Sylvia Barley, Joyce Semanik, and Lurdes Casillas.  Volunteers:  Juan Avalos, Linda Hall, Emily Cramer, Gabrielle Landingham, Darline Arroyo, Patricia Nutting, Patrick Webster, Leanne Bean, Christine Swanson, Ruth Higgins, Thomas MacKenzie, Sandra Camarena, Vivian Nguyen, Sandra Cubillos Bezanilla, Vannie Pham, Brad McReynolds, Jeneffer Ramirez, Estella Castillo-Garrison, Doug Barr, James Rondeau, Sophie Miller-Gilliland, and Ryan Brook.  In addition, thanks to Jeanne Harris-Caldwell and her health center team, John Ozurovich and his maintenance and operations team, Tony Lipold and his kinesiology and athletics team, and Pat Higa and his campus safety team.  We also want to give a special shout out to Tim Swiss, because none of this could have been possible without his contribution overseeing the bulk of the set up and tear down of the event.  We also want to thank Mark Kruhmin for producing the video of the ceremony.

Congratulations to all students, faculty, and staff for another banner academic year at Saddleback College.

Sincerely,

Tod A. Burnett, Ed.D.
President