UC San Diego News Center


Keynote Address from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to Lead UC San Diego’s Commencement Weekend

Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, will be the keynote speaker at the University of California San Diego All Campus Commencement where he will share with a record 9,000 graduating students and more than 15,000 guests “The Value of Education, Ethics and Compassion for the Well-Being of Self and Others.”

At the invitation-only Commencement to be held at 10 a.m., June 17 on RIMAC Field, Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla will confer degrees by academic division upon graduates gathered as one student body. The event will kick off UC San Diego’s graduation weekend, June 16-18. Following the ceremony, the campus’ six undergraduate colleges, two professional schools and various graduate programs will host personalized graduation events where undergraduate and graduate students will walk across stage as their names are read.

The Dalai Lama describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk. But to the world he is a renowned peace advocate, a beacon of hope for humanity, sharing inspirational messages with international audiences that range from young students to world leaders. In 1989, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. His Holiness also became the first Nobel laureate to be recognized for his concern for global environmental problems.

As one of the top 15 research universities in the world and recognized for its contributions to the public good, UC San Diego partnered with The Friends of the Dalai Lama Foundation to host the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism for the campus-wide event. Founded by Ven. Lama Tenzin Dhonden, the Personal Emissary for Peace to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, the foundation is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that oversees the creation and planning of elite and large-scale events held at public and private venues throughout the United States for the Dalai Lama.

“We are honored to host His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama at UC San Diego and thankful that he will share messages of global compassion with our graduates and their families,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “A man of peace, the Dalai Lama promotes global responsibility and service to humanity. These are the ideals we aim to convey and instill in our students and graduates at UC San Diego.”

Lama Tenzin Dhonden added, “His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been invited to speak at most major universities in the U.S. because his global message of universal responsibility, kindness and compassion is loved and appreciated by people all over the world, and applicable to every field of study.”

The selected student speaker for Commencement is Richard “Ricky” Alexander Flahive, who is graduating with a double major in political science and sociology. He will share his personal story with students—the first chapters of which might have suggested his life would have taken a different direction entirely. With a childhood that included living in a motel for seven years, he largely missed out on elementary school. At San Diego City College, he made up for lost time. He was on the Dean’s List his last two years before transferring to UC San Diego.

The majority of UC San Diego’s commencement events take place June 17 and 18 on RIMAC Field.

See details below on the speakers, number of graduating students and other information for the various ceremonies. (Please note: The UC San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences graduation ceremony already took place May 13.)

Sunday, June 4

10 a.m., School of Medicine (East Lawn between the Medical Teaching Facility and the Stein Research Building): Medical degrees will be conferred on 130 graduates––10 will receive joint M.D./Ph.D. degrees and 13 will receive an additional Masters of Advanced Studies. In addition, seven of these students are graduates of the school’s Program in Medical Education – Health Equity (PRIME-HEq), an inclusive program designed to build on students’ interests and backgrounds in community service. The keynote speaker will be John B. West, M.D., Ph.D., distinguished professor of Medicine and Physiology at the UC San Diego School of Medicine. West’s topic will be “Looking Back and Looking Ahead in the Field of Medicine,” which will relay changes in the school since his first visit in 1968, and some of the remarkable opportunities for graduates today. Total number of graduates: 130.

Saturday, June 17

2:30 p.m., Earl Warren College––About 980 graduating students will gather to hear the keynote speech from Earl Warren College graduate Christian Elizabeth Druan. Duran will talk about her journey coming from an immigrant family, her experience as a first-generation college graduate and how she plans to work for Teach for America after graduation. Total number of graduates: 980.

3:30 p.m., Graduate Division (RIMAC Arena)—The Graduate Division ceremony is set to take place inside RIMAC Arena with 2,400 graduates. Of the new graduates, 1,850 will receive masters’ degrees and 550 will receive doctoral degrees. The keynote speaker is Graduate Division Dean Kit Pogliano, as well as president of the Graduate Student Association, Garrett Bredell. Total number of graduates: 2,400.

6 p.m., John Muir College Ceremony––Muir College senior Richard “Ricky” Alexander Flahive will address more than 1,000 graduating students and their guests. He will address the college’s philosophy of celebrating the independent spirit and discuss how each student has their own unique story that no one can take away. Total number of graduates: 1,020.

Sunday, June 18

8 a.m., Eleanor Roosevelt College––Graduating senior Emilia Hong will address the college’s nearly 1,100 graduates. Hong will talk about her experiences as a student and her post-graduate plans to pursue public office. Her political aspirations center on developing more comprehensive programs for veterans and the homeless. Total number of graduates: 1,099.

9 a.m., Rady School of Management (RIMAC Arena)––Rady’s class of 2017 includes more than 300 graduates: 122 are earning M.B.A. degrees, three are receiving doctorates in management, 135 are receiving master’s in finance and 42 are receiving a master’s in business analytics. John Andrew McQuown, who created one of the original S&P 500 index funds in the early 1970s, will serve as the school’s commencement speaker was labeled by Bloomberg magazine as the “80-year-old whiz kid” for his work reinventing the corporate bond. Total number of graduates: 300.

11:30 a.m., Thurgood Marshal College Ceremony––California State Assemblymember Shirley Weber will address the college’s 1,200 graduating students. Weber attended UCLA, where she received her B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. by the age of 26. Prior to receiving a doctorate, she became a professor at San Diego State University at the age of 23. Weber represents California's 79th Assembly District, which includes the cities of Bonita, Chula Vista, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, National City and San Diego. Total number of graduates: 1,200.

1:30 p.m., School of Global Policy and Strategy (RIMAC Arena): The School of Global Policy and Strategy will bestow 110 master’s of international affairs and 31 master’s of advanced studies in international affairs, as well as seven joint bachelor of arts in international studies degrees and master’s of international affairs degrees to graduates. The graduating students and will hear from Agustin Carstens, current governor of the Bank of Mexico. Head of Mexico’s national bank since 2010, Carstens has served as executive director of the International Monetary Fund and member of the G-20 Financial Stability Board steering committee. He will become the first central banker from an emerging economy to assume the role of general manager of the Bank for International Settlements, the world’s oldest financial institution bringing together 60 central banks that account for 95 percent of the world’s GDP. Total number of graduates: 148.

3 p.m., Revelle College Ceremony: UC San Diego alumna Kathleen “Kate” Rubins (’99) will deliver the keynote speech. Rubins was selected to join NASA in 2009 and completed her first spaceflight on Expeditions 48/49, where she became the first person to sequence DNA in space as part of the overall science portfolio for the mission of more than 275 experiments. She spent 115 days in space and conducted two spacewalks. She holds a bachelor of science in molecular biology from UC San Diego and a Ph.D. in cancer biology from Stanford University Medical School Biochemistry Department and Microbiology and Immunology Department. Rubins conducted her undergraduate research on HIV-1 integration in the Infectious Diseases Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Prior to joining NASA, she worked at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research heading 14 researchers studying viral diseases affecting Africa. Total number of graduates: 800.

6:30 p.m., Sixth College Ceremony––Graduating senior Erin Epstein, a communications major, will address 1,050 graduating students. Epstein has set her sights set on becoming an elementary school teacher and will discuss how, by fostering a growth mindset in her students, she hopes to build world momentum for the belief that anything is possible. She also hopes to inspire students to look forward to the opportunities life presents them in their next journey as alumni. Total number of graduates: 1,050.

Grads by the numbers:

Undergraduates: 6,149

  • Earl Warren College: 980
  • John Muir College: 1,020
  • Eleanor Roosevelt College: 1,099
  • Thurgood Marshall College: 1,200
  • Revelle College: 800
  • Sixth College: 1,050

Graduate students: 2,978

  • SKAGGs School of Pharmacy: 59
  • School of Medicine: 130
  • Rady School of Management: 300
  • Graduate Division: 2,400
  • School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS): 148

Total record number of graduating students: 9,186