Nearly 4,000 Cal State East Bay students received their degrees during five separate ceremonies the weekend of June 15-17, as three distinguished honorary degree recipients passed on their words of wisdom to their fellow graduates.
Leroy M. Morishita, presiding over his first commencement weekend as Cal State East Bay's president, was the first to offer advice to the graduates.
"I know that many of you overcame significant obstacles to be here today. As you continue your journey and encounter life's adversities, I hope you remember this time and how you persevered to get your degree," Morishita said. "Continue to act on your dreams and make them a reality despite any obstacles you encounter. You have accomplished an important goal, but it is just the beginning of a lifetime of learning and personal development."
Former Tower of Power lead vocalist Lenny Williams was honored at commencement for the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences, while longtime East Bay businessman and university alumnus Richard Sherratt was honored during the graduation ceremony for the College of Business and Economics. Ellen Tauscher, special envoy for strategic stability and missile defense in the Obama Administration and former East Bay congresswoman, was honored during ceremonies at CSUEB's Concord Campus. Williams received an honorary doctorate of fine arts, Sherratt was presented with an honorary doctorate of humane letters, and Tauscher received an honorary doctorate of laws.
Williams, a long-time resident of the East Bay and Oakland since the 1970s has been a major influence in the growth and popularity of R&B (rhythm and blues), soul music and jazz, first as lead singer of Tower of Power. Tower of Power’s string of hits – including “So Very Hard to Go,” “Don’t Change Horses,” and Luvin You” – were written by Williams and Johnny “Guitar” Watson. As a soloist, Williams had several hit recordings, including “Choosing You” in 1977 and “ ‘Cause I Love You” in 1978. He later recorded hit songs and albums into the 1980s.
After singing "So Very Hard to Go" for the graduates, Williams advised them to devote time to those around them and the world.
"I wanted to do more than singing and writing songs. I am sure many of you will become business owners, entrepreneurs, civic leaders, etc., but I urge you to find time to do something to help others," Williams said. "You may not get recognized like I am today, and recognition was never my intent. But I guarantee you will experience a joy unspeakable when you live a life of service to your family, city, state and to this great country of ours and the world."
Sherratt – a long-time Bay Area businessman, civic leader, and philanthropist – is a 1970 graduate of Cal State East Bay who was a star pitcher for the university’s baseball team. In 2002 he was inducted into the Cal State East Bay Athletic Hall of Fame. Sherratt is founder and CEO of Ballena Technologies, an Alameda-based firm that makes modeling software that allows Internet users to see a graphical depiction of an arena, concert hall or any large venue. An entrepreneur for more than 30 years, he has founded 15 other companies. Sherratt actively gives back to the community, having served for eight years on the Alameda City Council and working for the Alameda Boys & Girls Club. Additionally, he is chair of the Cal State East Bay Education Foundation, the main fundraising arm of the university, and has been a driving force for an educational exchange between CSUEB and Fukuoka Institute of Technology in Japan.
“You have great opportunity being given to you to create the (currently) non-existent job for your children," Sherratt told the graduates. "Some very wise people a decade or so ago said everything that can possibly be invented has already been invented. Over 5½ million patents have been issued; 39 percent of those have been in the last decade and nearly 20 percent within the last 5 years. So take advantage of the opportunity to be creative.”
Tauscher, who for 13 years served much of the East Bay in California’s 10th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, was the nation’s under secretary of state for arms control and international security affairs from June of 2009 until her February appointment as special envoy. While in Congress, she represented the only district to have two national defense laboratories – Lawrence Livermore and Sandia California. The district also includes Camp Parks Army Reserve facility in Dublin and Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield. CSUEB’s Concord Campus is in District 10, which includes eastern Contra Costa County and El Cerrito in western Contra Costa County, parts of Solano and Sacramento counties, and the city of Livermore in Alameda County.
In 2009 she donated her congressional papers to the archives of the University Library of Cal State East Bay.