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Students earn fruits of hard work at commencement: diplomas in droves

More than 15,700 diplomas and certificates awarded

Merrill Balassoneby Merrill Balassone
USC 2014 commencement
The class of 2014 walks during the 131st commencement ceremony (Photo/ Gus Ruelas)

USC president C. L. Max Nikias congratulated USC’s Class of 2014 at commencement on May 16, acknowledging that while they graduate into uncertain times, they rank among the “most talented and ambitious student bodies in America.”

Of the new Trojan alums who earned a total of 15,754 diplomas and certificates Friday, nearly 4,000 were the first in their families to graduate from college. Among undergraduates, 18 recorded perfect 4.0 grade point averages, and nearly 10 percent earned two bachelor’s degrees in different disciplines.

“It is our pleasure and privilege to unleash your talents and your energies upon our world,” Nikias said.

The USC president honored valedictorian Jana Shapiro and salutatorians Brian Lentz and Jared Sokol. Shapiro, who will begin medical school at Northwestern University this fall, urged her fellow graduates to contribute to their communities beyond charity and service from a distance.

“Wherever our careers take us, there will be new opportunities to invest in the lives of others,” Shapiro said. “Let’s cultivate a Trojan culture of action and spread it wherever we go.”

Rallying to celebrate new graduates

It takes the better part of a year to plan USC’s main commencement celebration and dozens of satellite ceremonies for individual schools. But the preparations really ramp up in the last few weeks before the big day as hundreds of workers plant flower beds, drain and repaint the campuses’ fountains and set up 46,000 white folding chairs. Hours before the main ceremony, vendors lined Trousdale Parkway with strings of cardinal and gold flower leis and bouquets.

Shiyulli Suriyakumar, a newly minted graduate in majoring in philosophy, politics and law, was surrounded by 17 jubilant family members and friends—some wrapped in bright saris with video cameras and flowers — who had traveled from across the country to support her.

Suriyakumar listened to commencement speaker Marc Benioff ’86 discuss the importance of giving for a lifetime. His words on public service echoed what Suriyakumar loves best about her fellow Trojans. “(I came) to a school where everybody shares an interest and belief in community engagement,” she said. After graduation, she’ll join the Justice Corps to help provide equal legal rights to those who can’t afford an attorney.

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