Education

Former presidential adviser Leon Panetta to speak at Cal Poly graduation

Leon Panetta served as President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff and as President Barack Obama’s secretary of defense, among other roles in politics. He’ll be one of two keynote speakers at Cal Poly’s graduation on June 11-12. He’ll speak at two ceremonies June 11.
Leon Panetta served as President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff and as President Barack Obama’s secretary of defense, among other roles in politics. He’ll be one of two keynote speakers at Cal Poly’s graduation on June 11-12. He’ll speak at two ceremonies June 11.

An influential political strategist who has worked under two U.S. presidents and a leader in California education who has helped disadvantaged students attend college will be the two keynote speakers of this spring’s Cal Poly graduation.

Leon Panetta and Margaret Fortune were named the speakers at Cal Poly’s three spring commencement ceremonies, set for June 11-12. Cal Poly will graduate more than 4,200 students.

Panetta will address the Colleges of Engineering and Architecture and Environmental Design at 9 a.m. and the colleges of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and Science and Mathematics at 4 p.m. June 11. Fortune will address the College of Liberal Arts and the Orfalea College of Business at 9 a.m. June 12. Each of the ceremonies takes place in Alex G. Spanos Stadium on campus.

4,200Number of Cal Poly students graduating this year

Panetta was President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff from 1994 to ’96 and completed five years of service in Obama’s administration, serving as the CIA’s director from 2009 to ’11 and the secretary of defense from 2011 to ’13.

Panetta oversaw the operation to kill al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and developed a new defense strategy to conduct counterterrorism operations while strengthening U.S. alliances.

In 1977, Panetta began the first of eight terms in the House of Representatives, serving a district that stretched from Santa Cruz to Santa Maria. His work helped establish the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which regulates the coastline from San Francisco to Cambria.

In 1997, Panetta and his wife, Sylvia, established and co-directed The Panetta Institute for Public Policy, based at CSU Monterey Bay. The nonpartisan, nonprofit study center prepares program participants for lives in public service and how to tackle policy challenges of the future.

Over the years, 15 Cal Poly students have participated in the Panetta Institute Congressional Internship Program, which pairs them with members of Congress for a three-month educational experience in Washington, D.C.

15Number of Cal Poly students who have participated in the Panetta Institute Congressional Internship Program

Fortune has served as an education adviser to two California governors, Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. She was recently named a trustee emeritus after serving for eight years as a trustee of the 23-campus California State University system. She sits on the California Charter Schools Association Board of Directors and graduated from UC Berkeley and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Her work has focused on closing the African-American achievement gap and preparing students for college, starting when they’re in kindergarten. She heads Fortune School and started a network of tuition-free, college preparatory public charter schools in Sacramento and San Bernardino counties.

Since 2014, Fortune School students have experienced science hands-on in Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing Lab. In 2017, Fortune will open Middle College High School in Sacramento, in partnership with Cal Poly and Cosumnes River College. The school will focus academically on science, technology, engineering, art and math.

For more information, go to www.commencement.calpoly.edu.

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