With a live orchestra, full academic regalia and flags from many countries flying, Foothill College awarded 552 associate degrees Friday evening.
Graduates will go on to nearly every campus in the California State University and University of California systems as well as to Santa Clara University, Stanford University, Loyola Marymount University, Amherst College, Brown University, Columbia University, the University of Southern California, New York University and many others.
Foothill President Judy Miner presented the President's Medal to two graduates who "demonstrated academic achievement in all college work," Japanese major Mary Akers-Bell and Spanish major Cheryl Sundheim. The third president's Medal honoree, business administration major Hong M. Clark, was not present at the ceremony.
Miner said graduates in Foothill's health care programs had 100 percent pass rates for national or state board exams in dental hygiene, radiation technology, veterinary technology and respiratory therapy.
She introduced departing Foothill-De Anza Community College Chancellor Martha Kanter, who will be sworn in as U.S. undersecretary of education Wednesday, July 1, after 16 years with the district, the first 10 as president of De Anza College.
Faculty speaker Lauren Popell Velasco, a communication and forensics instructor, told graduates, "During these difficult times we don't have to look very far to find a true source of inspiration. It is right here. It's you."
Urging graduates to pursue their passions -- even if they're not yet sure what those are -- Velasco quoted essayist Agnes Repplier: "It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere."
Keynote speaker and Foothill alumna Gloria Walton, now a community organizer in Los Angeles, said it was at Foothill that the desire to become "an educated mover and shaker was implanted in me." Walton railed against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget-cutting proposals and told graduates, "In order to move forward, we must always give back."
"You and I have been educated by some of the finest educators in the state," student speaker Timothy Craig said, praising the Foothill faculty and classmates who will be able to "heal our dogs" (veterinary techs) and "give us great smiles" (dental hygienists). Craig himself plans to study communication at San Francisco State University.
Many Foothill graduates are participants in the college's transfer program, in which a student signs a contract with a UC or a CSU campus. The contract guarantees the student admission to that campus provided that they take certain courses and maintain a certain grade point average while at Foothill.
Under the transfer program, GPAs for guaranteed admission to UC campuses at Irvine and Merced go as low as 2.7, according to Mary Lou Heslet, Foothill's transfer director, who started the transfer office in 1989 and retired Friday.
A 2.8 GPA is required for transfer agreements with UC campuses at Davis and Riverside; a 3.0 for San Diego, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz and a 3.3 with honors for UCLA, Heslet said. UC Berkeley does not have a transfer agreement with Foothill but gives priority consideration for admission to Foothill honor students, she said.
The UC campus that receives the highest number of Foothill graduates is UCLA, followed closely by Berkeley, she said.
In 2008, 261 Foothill graduates went into the UC system and 393 went to the CSU system, with and without transfer agreements. Transfer figures for this year were not available Friday.