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U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera to Speak at Santa Clara University Undergraduate Commencement June 17
[May 19, 2017]

U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera to Speak at Santa Clara University Undergraduate Commencement June 17


U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera will be the featured speaker at Santa Clara University's 166th undergraduate commencement ceremony.

Undergraduate commencement will take place at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 17, at Santa Clara University's Buck Shaw Stadium.

Juan Felipe Herrera is the 21st Poet Laureate of the United States and is the first Latino to hold the position. From 2012-2014, Herrera served as California's Poet Laureate, appointed by Governor Jerry Brown. As the state Poet Laureate, Herrera created the i-Promise Joanna Project, an anti-bullying poetry project inspired by an elementary school girl who was bullied and killed in an after-school fight in Long Beach, California.

"By honoring Mr. Herrera, we celebrate how the arts enrich the spirit and express our desires for justice. Mr. Herrera has emphasized the need to speak boldly, in aesthetic terms, of our search for that justice in a world torn by injustice. His life and work are profound expressions that call for the inclusion of those who are on the margins of society," said Santa Clara University President Michael E. Engh, S.J.

Herrera writes passionately about social issues and is a performance artist and activist on behalf of migrant and indigenous communities and at-risk youth. His work has been known to cross genres, even into opera and dance theatre.

"Back in 1962, as a beginning middle-schooler, I visited the campus of Santa Clara University with Padre Rasura from Logan Heights Barrio in San Diego. It was an idyllic paradise, palms and skies and adobe-colored, cinnamon-scented structures," said Juan Felipe Herrera. "For decades I recalled it and mused over its magic, a tender time of discovery. Soon, I will return, more than half a century later, and offer words of gratitude and celebration for the next generaton, designers of new skies, the poetic kind, filled with heart, the kind that moves you forward to continue with joy for all."

Herrera is the author of 30 books, including collections of poetry, prose, short stories, young adult novels and picture books for children. Born in Fowler, California in 1948 to migrant farmworker parents, he moved around often, living in tents and trailers along the road in Southern California, and attended school in a variety of small towns from San Francisco to San Diego. In 1972 Herrera graduated from UCLA with a bachelor's degree in social anthropology, then attended Stanford University, where he received a master's degree in social anthropology. He later pursued a Master's of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1990.

Herrera has received fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, the University of California at Berkeley, the Breadloaf Writers' Conference, the Stanford Chicano Fellows Program, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2016, he was awarded the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement. He has taught at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and served as chair of the Chicano and Latin American Studies Department at CSU-Fresno. He recently retired from the Creative Writing Department at UC Riverside, and lives in Fresno, California with his partner, the poet and performance artist, Margarita Robles.


At the undergraduate commencement, the University will confer an honorary degree on Herrera as well as on Mike and Mary Ellen Fox, dedicated Catholic philanthropists, and Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J., director of the Vatican Observatory.

Santa Clara University School of Law will hold its 2017 commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 20 at 9:30 a.m. in the University's Mission Gardens. Leon Panetta, who served as United States Secretary of Defense, CIA director and an eight-term member of Congress during his 50-year career, will be the featured speaker.

A separate commencement ceremony for students receiving advanced degrees from Santa Clara University's College of Arts and Sciences' Graduate Program in Pastoral Ministries; the School of Engineering; the Leavey School of Business, and the School of Education and Counseling Psychology will be held Friday, June 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Buck Shaw Stadium.

About Santa Clara University

Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California's Silicon Valley, offers its more than 8,800 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, theology, and engineering, plus master's and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master's universities, California's oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see www.scu.edu.


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