This story originally appeared in UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

Class of 2012 sails into the future

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The largest of 60 commencement ceremonies to be held at UCLA this graduation season brought more than 16,000 students, parents and other loved ones to Drake Stadium to celebrate the College of Letters and Science class of 2012.
 
In keeping with the theme of “Transformative Leadership,” it seemed fitting for the keynote speaker to be an entrepreneur who uses social media to create social change.
 
Jessica Jackley, an entrepreneur who co-founded Kiva — a micro-lending website that allows Internet users to lend as little as $25 to individual entrepreneurs, providing affordable capital to help them start or expand small businesses — has facilitated nearly $300 million in loans in more than 200 countries.
 
“My journey has included other ventures and adventures and other successes and some painful failures, too,” Jackley told the crowd. “The point for me is that I love the path that I’ve taken. I love my life. I want you to love your path, too. I want you to be standing somewhere 12 years from now and say, ‘I wouldn’t trade my journey for any other,’ even when it could have ended well in a different way.
 
“So how do you choose a path that you would not trade for the world? Here’s my very best advice,” she said. “Figure out what you love. Run like mad toward those things and those people, and give yourself away completely to them. And very importantly, don’t make excuses and don’t let anything get in your way, because you always have a choice.”
 
 
The social entrepreneur was introduced by communication studies major Madeline “Maddy” Grubman, an aspiring actress, active member of the Pediatric AIDS Coalition at UCLA and frequent volunteer with Amigos de las Americas.
 
“The beauty of UCLA and, in my opinion, the most important lesson this university has taught me, is not only in realizing that each of us as individuals has the power to achieve greatness, but in realizing what can become possible when we pool together our individual talents and accomplishments in the pursuit of something bigger,” she said.
 
This year marks the UCLA College of Letters and Science’s 88th commencement and, in tribute, graduating seniors who were recipients of the 2012 Chancellor’s Service Award provided a vibrant addition to the commencement processional by carrying 88 blue-and-gold banners into the stadium. The banners added spark to the already colorful mob of students in their elegant black robes and shiny blue sashes, toting bouquets and sporting bright leis and zany eyewear.
 
In his address, Chancellor Gene Block touched on the commencement theme of transformative leadership, adding that for leadership to be truly transformative, it must be infused with the spirit of service.
 
“Service is part of UCLA’s DNA. It always has been,” Block said. “It’s a DNA that tells us that what you know is important, but that being of service to the world, giving back and building a better society for all of us are also critical. That’s transformative leadership in action. And I believe we all have a responsibility to give back to this world, to transform this world in a positive direction.”
 
Block presented the UCLA Medal, the university’s highest honor, to UCLA alumnus and Professor Emeritus of Surgery Paul Terasaki, a pioneer in organ-transplant medicine who was the first to devise a method to perform “tissue typing,” which assesses the compatibility of organ donors and recipients. A longtime UCLA supporter, Terasaki donated $50 million to the UCLA Division of Life Sciences, the largest gift ever received by the College of Letters and Science. The Terasaki Life Sciences Building, opened in fall 2010, was named in his honor.
 
Judith Smith, dean and vice provost for undergraduate education, presented the bachelor’s degree candidates with the help of the College’s four deans: Joseph Rudnick (physical sciences), Victoria Sork (life sciences), Alessandro Duranti (social sciences) and David Schaberg (interim dean of humanities.)
 
After the chancellor conferred the degrees, there was a roar from the crowd as Maddy Grubman led her classmates in lifting their tassels from the right side of their mortarboards to the left, officially marking them as college graduates.
 
Although it was the largest ceremony, the College of Letters and Science’s was not the only one to take place today. Other commencement celebrations earlier in the day included those of the College’s Honors Program, the Luskin School of Public Affairs and the Anderson School of Management. U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius was to address graduates at the Fielding School of Public Health ceremony.
 
The School of Theater, Film and Television ceremony was dedicated to the memory of the late founding dean Gil Cates, who died last October. Chancellor Block paid tribute to Cates’ many contributions, noting how the esteemed director had brought Hollywood and UCLA together by revitalizing the school’s relationships with its alumni and by recruiting top-notch faculty.
 
Graduation ceremonies will continue on Saturday and Sunday with such featured speakers as Patricia Grady, director of the National Institute for Nursing Research, and Wanda M. Austin, president and CEO of The Aerospace Corp. Complete list of speakers.
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