Former White House Doctor Advises Graduates to Rise Above Weak Economy
Alumna served as Chief Physician to three U.S. presidents
Kristin Luciani | June 13, 2011
Center, UC San Diego Alumni Dr. Connie Mariano leads graduates out with Revelle College Dean of Student Affairs Dr. Renee Barnett, right, following the Revelle Commencement Ceremony.
Photos by Erik Jepsen
Preparing to address the 2011 graduates of UC San Diego, Dr. Connie Mariano found herself returning to her college study habits. She spent late nights at Starbucks tossing around ideas with friends. She asked her two sons, ages 22 and 24, for advice, hoping to learn what their generation wanted to hear before entering into the real world. And, in the end, she employed the ultimate college study strategy—pulling an all-nighter to write the final version of her speech.
Mariano, who graduated from Revelle College in 1977, served 24 years in the U.S. Navy and was the first Filipino-American to reach the rank of Rear Admiral. She was also the first woman to hold the position of director of the White House Medical Unit, where she served as chief physician to three sitting presidents: George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. On Saturday, June 11 Mariano returned to her alma mater to address the 900 graduates of Revelle College and some 8,000 guests.
“When you speak, make sure it’s your voice,” said Mariano. “Be open to opportunity, have faith, be your unique voice and be grateful.”
Mariano shared with the Class of 2011 the experiences that led her to where she is now, from moving from the Philippines to the United States as a child, to studying at UC San Diego and then serving in the U.S. Navy as a doctor. She also shared the nerve-wracking experience of interviewing for a job at the White House.
About 7,535 students will graduate UC San Diego this month.
Addressing graduates who are now preparing for job interviews of their own, Mariano assured the seniors that they are ready. Graduating from UC San Diego is not easy, Mariano reminded the students, and that accomplishment is evidence that they are prepared to take on life’s next challenge.
“This is the worst of times, but it is also the best of times,” Mariano continued. “Today’s economy will force graduates to be more innovative and creative. Be open to opportunity. It may not be what you want—it may be better.”
More than 7,500 students graduated from UC San Diego over the weekend. Graduation speakers included U.S. Congressman Bob Filner (D-Calif.), actor and comedian David Allen Grier and prominent UC San Diego alumni such as Mariano. Family members, friends, alumni, faculty and staff filled the campus for the graduation ceremonies, which included the awarding of graduate and professional degrees.
UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox spoke at a total of 11 ceremonies between May 27 and June 12.
“You have made a difference in the lives of many people over the last four years,” said Fox, addressing the graduates of Thurgood Marshall College. “And now, with your UC San Diego education, you are poised to make a difference in the world.”
Chancellor Marye Anne Fox spoke at a total of 11 ceremonies.
Fox continued, “Whatever you end up doing, know that you’ll always be a part of our UC San Diego family. This is your university.”
In addition to marking a milestone in the lives of graduating students, the 2011 commencement weekend signified a landmark in the university’s history, coinciding with its 50th Anniversary celebration. The Class of 2011 enjoyed the unique distinction of commemorating their achievements and memorable experiences at UC San Diego as the university celebrated 50 years of remarkable accomplishments and innovative firsts. As graduates reflected on their time at UC San Diego and looked towards the next chapter of their lives, the university also reflected on its past and the potential of the next 50 years.
Erik Van Esselstyn, one of the student speakers at Revelle College’s commencement, spoke of the possibilities awaiting the Class of 2011. “This is a day for a maxim of our own making, a day to choose our own words and our own purpose,” he said. “Identity is not discovered, it is created.” Urging his fellow graduates to pursue their passions, continue learning and forge their own identities in the world, Van Esselstyn also reminded graduates not to forget the present moment. “What lies around the next bend matters little if we do not delight in getting there.”