Spring 2024 /The Value of the Liberal Arts/

Commencement Speakers

Pomona’s Class of 2024 Commencement ceremony on May 12 will feature four distinguished speakers: former Chief Justice of California Tani Cantil-Sakauye, economist and nonprofit leader Cecilia Conrad, Occidental College President Harry Elam and medical geneticist Emil Kakkis ’82. In addition to addressing graduating students, the speakers will be conferred honorary degrees by the College.

Headshot of Tani Cantil-Sakauye

Tani Cantil-Sakauye

Cantil-Sakauye is president and CEO of the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that works to improve public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research. Before joining PPIC, she served 32 years as a jurist, with the last 12 as the chief justice of California.

Headshot of Cecilia Conrad

Cecilia Conrad

Conrad is founder and CEO of Lever for Change, which assists donors in finding high-impact philanthropic opportunities and has helped distribute more than $1.7 billion for social good. She previously led the MacArthur Fellows program. An emerita professor of economics at Pomona College, Conrad also served as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College, and later as acting president.

Headshot of Harry Elam

Harry Elam

Elam, the president of Occidental College, has positioned Occidental as a cutting-edge liberal arts institution and demonstrated visionary leadership in complex national higher education issues. He completed the most successful comprehensive campaign in the college’s history and has led transformative initiatives to advance Occidental’s renown for education that values social impact. A pre-eminent scholar of playwright August Wilson’s works, he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Headshot of Emil Kakkis ’82

Emil Kakkis ’82

Kakkis is CEO and president of Ultragenyx. Known for his work to develop treatments for rare and ultra-rare disorders, Kakkis has identified or developed 11 approved treatments for rare genetic diseases. After earning a B.A. in biology at Pomona College, he received his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from UCLA. He began his research career at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where he worked on developing an enzyme replacement therapy for the rare lysosomal storage disorder MPS I. Kakkis also founded the nonprofit EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases.

Information for commencement weekend can be found on the Commencement webpage. A live broadcast of the ceremony will be available.