Cal Poly kicked off its 78th annual spring commencement celebration Saturday with 2019 graduates walking from the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, College of Engineering and College of Science and Mathematics.
It began with a moment of silence for the tragedy that struck the San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly communities after the death of 22-year-old senior Nicole Scalone in a head-on car crash Wednesday morning on Highway 101 that also claimed the life of 43-year-old Anthony Au of Los Osos.
It ended in cheers for the students starting the next chapter of their lives.
The ceremony launched a weekend in which 5,135 students are eligible to graduate, compared to 4,803 last year. Students from the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, Orfalea College of Business and College of Liberal Arts will be honored at 5 p.m. Sunday.
“Commencement is a final chance to salute our ambassadors of Learn by Doing as they get ready to fan out across the nation,” Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong said in a statement prior to the weekend. “They prepare to leave during one of most robust economic times for college graduates in years. Some will begin careers. Others will embark on advanced degree programs. Whatever the destination, we are confident that they are prepared for the future and are poised to become tomorrow’s leaders.”
Saturday’s keynote speaker was a familiar sight for many of the graduates. Paul Wesselmann, the creator of The Ripples Project, spoke in the same place as their Week of Welcome four years ago.
The Ripples Project sends inspirational quotes and catchphrases to remind people the impact small actions can have. Wesselmann spoke on the importance of three things people can say to one another: congratulations, thank you and I love you.
“Of all the gifts that will be exchanged today, I promise you, that love is the most profound gift that you will ever receive and the most transformative gift that you can possibly give another human being,” he said.
Wesselmann added that these sentiments should be shared every day with those who are deserving of them.
Armstrong celebrated the class for being individuals, “you can only be you, all other roles are taken.”
The ceremonies were moved this year to the evening and morning times to better accommodate participants and guests. A smattering of red Title IX protests, which have grown prevalent on campus recently, could be seen on gowns and mortarboards among the graduates.
Over 40,000 visitors were expected in SLO for graduation festivities over the weekend.