zelezny and wan

CSU Bakersfield President Lynnette Zelezny and outgoing Associated Students Inc. President Aaron Wan dressed in their commencement regalia to congratulate all CSUB graduates. The shelter-in-place order prompted by the coronavirus pandemic has forced the postponement of the spring 2020 commencement ceremony.

Dear CSUB graduating seniors:

I had hoped to be able to offer my congratulations to you on this milestone in your lives in person. To look out from the commencement podium at your faces, so full of joy and triumph, is the highlight of my year.

But life had another plan for us.

I know that you are disappointed that we will not meet for the spring 2020 commencement ceremony at the CSUB soccer field with your family, friends, classmates and the dedicated faculty members who inspired and prepared you for this moment.

For now, our celebrations will be private as we shelter in place with our loved ones, remaining safe and healthy. But our day together will come, and we will make up for the time that we lost. You are the pride of CSUB and deserve our praise, recognition and respect.

While we wait for the public celebration of your accomplishment, I hope you will take a moment to savor what you have achieved and to realize that, even though the crisis facing us today made your last weeks at CSUB a challenge, it is that same crisis that will test you, the graduating class of 2020, to use everything you learned here at the university to get our community and nation back on track.

The world has never needed you more.

You are the nurses, who will care for the sick.

You are the economists, who will help us grow and prosper.

You are the researchers, who will unlock secrets to health, technology and science.

You are the teachers, who will cultivate generations of thinkers and doers.

You are the engineers, who will build new structures and technologies to move us forward.

You are the agricultural leaders, who will feed and nourish millions.

You are the entrepreneurs, whose next big idea could launch a new industry.

You are the social justice advocates, who will fight for progress and equality.

You are the artists, who will remind us to seek out beauty even in the darkest times.

You are the hope of our community and beyond.

You are CSUB.

You are my inspiration.

Amid the joy and satisfaction each of you feels at this moment, there is bound to be uncertainty, misgivings about what life holds, given the circumstances.

But I encourage you to remain on your path to fulfill the dream you have worked years to realize. A college education requires discipline, hard work, sacrifice and dedication. It is a goal that requires a focus so sharp that we often must give up other things to stay the course and see it through. You’ve done that, ’Runners, and now that singular focus will benefit your employer, your family and your community.

Still, even with the outstanding education you have received at CSUB, all new professionals need a network of support as they begin their careers.

The good news is that your relationship with CSUB does not end when you receive your degree. Our Alumni Association works with recent graduates to help open doors and facilitate professional contacts. The ’Runner Alumni Mentor Program recently helped CSUB senior Marcos Figueroa land a coveted internship with NASA and Norma Hernandez find employment at a local television news station.

I encourage you to pay it forward to current and future ‘Runners who, like you, are working to live their dreams.

Recent weeks have been challenging, but they’ve also given me time for reflection. I’ve been thinking about leaders who have inspired me, like Wendy Wayne, a distinguished CSUB alumna, who was a nurse and advocate for children and social justice. At the time of her 2012 death, she had touched so many lives and given of her time and effort so selflessly that the community held a memorial for her at the Fox Theater. She had lived a principled life, based on service and kindness to others.

In reading about Wendy, I saw a letter she had written to her grandchildren before her death, offering them advice and wisdom. I was moved by what she had written and wanted to share it with you, as you leave CSUB and chart a course for your lives full of purpose, accomplishment and joy.

“Throughout my life, I've developed the most amazing friendships, seen the most spectacular sights, danced, sang and interacted in the most phenomenal places and basically have been blessed with lots of laughter and good feelings along the way. My dream is for each of you to have these same opportunities and to enjoy every moment that life offers. You never know when it's going to end.”

Graduating CSUB seniors, congratulations on the culmination of years of study and work. This is your time, your chance to make a difference. And while you’re out there, making your corner of the world a little better, please know that you have the support of the entire ’Runner nation behind you.

CSUB Class of 2020: Please rise!

Lynnette Zelezny is the president of Cal State Bakersfield.

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