CMC selects keynote speakers for upcoming commencements

Photo composite of Danielle Wood (left) and Steve Bullock ’88 P’24, this year's Commencement speakers.
Commencement 2022
Key Details

For the first time since 2019, friends and families of Claremont McKenna College graduates are invited to join CMC’s in-person commencement ceremony, where approximately 300 degrees will be conferred.

Who: Danielle Wood, director of MIT’s Space Enabled Research Lab, will offer the keynote address for the Class of 2022. She will be introduced by Sobechukwu (Sobé) Uwajeh, CMC senior class president. Rabbi Hannah Elkin of the interfaith Chaplaincy at The Claremont Colleges will lead the invocation. Class of 2022 Valedictorians include Simon Alexander, Andrea Zoe Leibenhaut, and Jacob Frederick Mays. 

When:  Saturday, May 14 at 2 p.m.

Where: Claremont McKenna College Parents Field, 690 Mills Ave., Claremont, Calif. 91711; the event will also be live-streamed on May 14, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. (PT), and available via a link to be posted on and the Commencement website.

Health and safety: For friends and family attending the ceremony in person, the College will continue to monitor public health conditions and guidelines, as well as align plans with CMC’s COVID Visitor Policy.

We are pleased to announce our keynote speakers for our in-person commencement ceremonies for our 2022 graduates in mid-May and our classes of 2020 and 2021 in early June.

Danielle Wood, whose work at MIT’s Space Enabled Research Lab applies space technology to the improvement of human conditions on earth, will offer the keynote address for the Class of 2022, at 2 p.m., Saturday, May 14. Rabbi Hannah Elkin of the interfaith Chaplaincy at The Claremont Colleges will lead the invocation for the Class of 2022.

Former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock '88 P'24, who ran for president in 2020, will deliver the keynote address for the Classes of 2020 and 2021 on Saturday, June 4 at 2 p.m. Religious leader, Phan Thị Kim Phúc, will lead the invocation for the Classes of 2020 and 2021.

“While they come from vastly different spheres—space engineering and government—each of our keynote speakers share a leadership commitment to serve the greater good,” said CMC President Hiram E. Chodosh. “Danielle Wood and Steve Bullock will inspire our graduates through their exemplary leadership in a challenging world.”

The Commencement Ceremony for the Class of 2022

Photo of Danielle Wood outdoors under dappled shade.
Danielle Wood of MIT’s Space Enabled Research Lab will offer the keynote address for the Class of 2022.

Danielle Wood will be the keynote speaker. Wood, who was named director of MIT’s Space Enabled Research Lab in 2018, is working to identify opportunities for space technology to improve public services, support sustainability, and solve global problems. This includes working with NASA on advancing the United Nation’s Sustainable Development goals, joining local scientists in Ghana to combat the environmental degradation stemming from illegal gold mining and improving water sources across the universe.

A scholar of societal development, Wood’s background combines research and hands-on projects, including satellite design, earth science applications, systems engineering, and technology policy. In addition to directing the space lab, Wood serves as an assistant professor of media arts and sciences at MIT.

Prior to joining the faculty at MIT, Wood held positions at NASA Headquarters, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Aerospace Corporation, Johns Hopkins University, and the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs. Wood earned a PhD in engineering systems, SM in aeronautics and astronautics, SM in technology policy, and SB in aerospace engineering at MIT.

Rabbi Hannah Elkin of the interfaith Chaplaincy at The Claremont Colleges will lead the invocation. Rabbi Elkin was ordained as a rabbi by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles in 2021. While at HUC-JIR, Rabbi Hannah also received a Masters of Jewish Education, worked as a teaching assistant at USC’s Louchheim School for Judaic Studies, and served as a spiritual counselor at Beit T’Shuvah, a Jewish-based addiction recovery center in Los Angeles.

The College has also bestowed honorary degrees to two leading CMC trustees.

To recognize his many contributions and achievements as a leader in business, education, and the humanities, Chris Walker ’69 will receive an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws at the May ceremony. Walker currently serves on CMC’s Board of Trustees, and as the inaugural chair of the College’s Public Art Subcommittee. He has personally supported several significant pieces of artwork and facilitated the loan of notable pieces to enhance the Kravis Center and Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum.

Another distinguished alumnus, William F. Podlich ’66 GP’26, will also receive an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws. Podlich has been a member of the CMC Board of Trustees since 1992, and currently serves as a life trustee. In addition to chairing several CMC committees, he has enriched the College intellectually by establishing the Podlich Scholarship Program, Podlich Distinguished Visitors Program, endowed the William F. Podlich '66 Professor of Economics and George R. Roberts Fellow Podlich Family Professor of Government and George R. Roberts Fellow. He received the CMC Alumni Association’s highest honor, the George C. Benson Distinguished Achievement Award in 1996. The presentation of this degree will take place during the ceremony for the Class of 2023 next year.

The Commencement Ceremony for the Classes of 2020 and 2021

Bullock, seen here with students at the Athenaeum, received the Dreier Roundtable Civility Award in September.
Steve Bullock ’88 P’24, former Montana governor, shown here with a student, will offer the Class of 2020-21 commencement address.

Steve Bullock '88 P'24 will be the keynote speaker. Bullock majored in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics while at CMC, and was active in student government, serving as ASCMC president. He later graduated from Columbia Law School in 1994. He began his career working as legal counsel to the Secretary of State of Montana before becoming the Executive Assistant Attorney General and acting Chief Deputy Attorney General of Montana. In 2008, Bullock was elected Attorney General of Montana, serving four years prior to being elected two terms as governor of Montana. In May 2019, Bullock ran for President of the United States as a Democratic candidate.

During his two terms as governor of Montana, Bullock worked together with a Republican-majority legislature to address the state’s most challenging issues, including Medicaid expansion and support for rural hospitals; access to public lands; and investment in infrastructure. At the national level, Bullock was elected Chair of the Western Governors Association and the National Governors Association, where he focused on the Good Jobs for All Americans initiative.

Bullock served as a 2021 fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School, and he is currently co-chair of American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic-aligned super PAC.

In September 2021, Bullock was awarded with the inaugural Dreier Roundtable Civility Award at CMC, recognized for "engaging in spirited debate within the framework of civil and respectful dialogue” and for exemplifying “the measured and thoughtful approach the country needs.”

UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Phan Thị Kim Phúc, will lead the invocation. Kim Phúc captured the world’s attention in 1972 when at age nine, she was photographed running naked after being severely burned by a napalm attack during the Vietnam war. After a painful recovery, she has spent her life dedicated to the promotion of peace. She is the founder of KIM Foundation International and has been designated a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.


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