Claremont McKenna and Pitzer announce commencement speakers

President of D.C. think tank Aurthur Brooks will speak at the 2019 Claremont Mckenna commencement. (Courtesy of AEI)

Claremont McKenna College and Pitzer College have announced keynote speakers for their May 2019 commencement ceremonies. Harvey Mudd College, Pomona College and Scripps College previously announced their commencement speakers.

Claremont McKenna College

Public policy scholar and author Arthur Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, will speak at CMC’s 72nd commencement ceremony.

Brooks began his career as a professional French hornist, leaving college at age 19 to perform with the Annapolis Brass Quintet and the City Orchestra of Barcelona, according to the commencement announcement on CMC’s website.

He returned to the United States to pursue higher education in public policy, later holding the Louis A. Bantle Chair of Business and Government at Syracuse University.

In 2009, Brooks became president of AEI, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C.

AEI is “dedicated to defending human dignity, expanding human potential and building a freer and safer world” through research in a variety of subjects, according to the organization’s website.

Brooks is AEI’s outgoing president and will join the faculty of the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School in fall 2019, according to the CMC announcement. He is also a contributing writer for The Washington Post and The New York Times.

The CMC announcement described Brooks as “a passionate advocate for dialogue across ideological differences.”

Senior class president Edgar Warnholtz CM ’19 said via email that he discussed the commencement speaker selection with CMC President Hiram Chodosh in spring 2018.

“In that meeting, I understood that although the senior class input was very important, the final decision would be made by college leadership,” Warnholtz said.

After meeting with a dozen seniors interested in providing input last fall, Warnholtz said he passed those students’ opinions on to Chodosh.

“Throughout the process and up to today, I have aspired to act as a representative for my class … in communicating with the president as well as helping my peers understand some of the decisions that the president makes through dialogue and improved communication,” Warnholtz said. “We are fortunate to have direct communication with President Chodosh on matters like these.”

CMC spokesperson Peter Hong did not comment before press time.

Brooks visited CMC’s Athenaeum in 2017 for the Res Publica Society Speaker Series. He spoke about capitalism and materialism at the “Abundance without Attachment” in early February.  

Pitzer College’s 2019 commencement speaker will be Laverne Cox, a transgender activist, award-winning producer and actress best known for her role in “Orange Is The New Black.” (Courtesy of Melissa Hamburg)

Pitzer College

Transgender actress, producer and advocate Laverne Cox will keynote Pitzer’s 55th commencement ceremony.

Cox is a two-time Emmy-nominated actress and Emmy-winning producer, according to Pitzer’s announcement. She rose to prominence with her portrayal of inmate Sophia Burset in the critically acclaimed Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black.”

“Cox is the first trans woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television show and the first openly trans person to be nominated for an Emmy in an acting category,” the announcement said. “She is also the first trans woman of color to produce and star in her own television show, VH1’s ‘TRANSForm Me,’ which was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award.”

Pitzer’s graduating class traditionally selects its commencement speaker. Pitzer Student Senate and Senior Class Council member Claire Wengrod PZ ’19 said the Senior Class Council sent out a Google form in October 2018 asking Pitzer seniors to nominate speakers.

From there, the council narrowed down a list of 25 choices to five realistic and popular candidates. The senior class then voted for Cox.

“[The council] also felt that she represented Pitzer’s core values really strongly, especially social responsibility,” Wengrod said.

In 2014, Cox received GLAAD’s Stephen F. Kolzak Award for her work promoting LGBTQ equality. The announcement on Pitzer’s website also described Cox as “a renowned speaker who encourages her audience to live more authentically.”

Cox retweeted Pitzer’s announcement about her commencement speech, adding, “Can’t wait to see you all!”

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