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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 11:33 am | Fair 55º


UCSB’s Class of ’15 Takes a Walk as Thousands of Graduates Celebrate Commencement

Newest alumni proudly receive diplomas amid speeches, congratulations, photographs and one last round of ‘Olé!’

Students receive their temporary diplomas from UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry T. Yang during Saturday’s commencement for Math, Life and Physical Sciences. Click to view larger
Students receive their temporary diplomas from UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry T. Yang during Saturday’s commencement for Math, Life and Physical Sciences. (Mike Eliason)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

A sea of students in commencement gowns — with “Class of 2015” emblazoned on blue and gold sashes — flooded the Faculty Club lawn Saturday morning as UC Santa Barbara continued its graduation festivities.

Expectant parents, families and friends waved to the grads as they were seated, and the students who walked Saturday will be added to the throng of more than 5,000 who were awarded undergraduate and graduate degrees from the 2014-2015 academic year.

The commencement events were so numerous, with so many students, that they were held over an eight-day period, which was slated to wrap up Sunday afternoon.

The College of Creative Studies had its ceremony  June 7, and the Bren School of Environmental Management had its commencement June 12. On Saturday, three commencement ceremonies were scheduled: the College of Letters and Science, Engineering and Sciences and Social Sciences.

The festivities will continue at 9 a.m. Sunday when commencement is held for Social Sciences II, and later in the day, Humanities and the Arts and the Graduate Division.

At the start of the College of Letters and Science graduation, the national anthem was sung Saturday morning by Biopsychology graduate Joshua Nkwocha, who spurred the students on to a chorus of “Olé!” after the anthem’s conclusion.

Chancellor Henry Yang also spoke, thanking the parents and grandparents for their “unwavering love and encouragement” for the students who were present.

He said he had happy memories of the class during their recruitment and move-in weekend their freshman year.

“It seems like yesterday,” he said.

Pierre Wiltzius, the Susan and Bruce Worster dean of Science, encouraged the students to not be afraid to take risks, and quoted Albert Einstein to emphasize the point.

“A ship is always safe at the shore but that is not what it is built for,” he told the graduates.

He urged them to stand up for the value of science in society, and proclaimed that the future “is in good hands.”

Pharmacology graduate Claudia Jette gave the student address.

Commencement speaker Miguel de los Rios, a UCSB alumnus and vice president of research and development for Sevion Therapeutics, also encouraged the students.

The biotechnology company he works for tackles antibody therapies for oncology and autoimmune disorders, like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Sevion also is working to develop cutting-edge technologies to deal with aggressive cancers.

De los Rios shared about his early life, growing up with dyslexia, when his aide told his parents he wouldn’t make it past high school. But a series of teachers invested in de los Rios, taking chances on him and expecting more.

“Turns out I loved challenges,” he said.

De los Rios eventually discovered science while working at the Hopkins Marine Station while attending a local junior college. He ultimately transferred to UCSB and started a company based on research he was doing to discover how to better treat diseased tissue.

As he began to pitch the idea to investors, he recalled, “I was ridiculed often and told to go work a few years in the industry before starting a company. But I wouldn’t give up.”

He eventually found the right investors, and ran his company Chimeros as its CEO and CFO.

“The message to you, is you can be that teacher who believes, or that scientist who gives a kid a break,” he told the graduates sitting before him. “Be a hero ... Love what you do.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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