Cal Poly has announced its keynote speakers for the upcoming spring commencement ceremonies on June 11 and 12.
Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will be addressing the College of Engineering and the College of Architecture and Environmental Design on June 11, along with the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and the College of Science and Mathematics. The following day, educator Margaret Fortune will address the College of Liberal Arts and the Orfalea College of Business.
Panetta started his career of public service in 1977, when he began the first of eight terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was elected to a ninth term, but resigned to head the Office of Management and Budget in 1993. He was later named President Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff from 1994 to 1996 and then President Barack Obama’s CIA director from 2009 to 2011, where he oversaw the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.
This all led up to Panetta’s position as Secretary of Defense, where he led the effort to develop new defense strategies, strengthened U.S. alliances and opened up opportunities for more Americans to serve in the military.
Panetta and his wife established the Leon and Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy in 1997. Each year, the institute allows for one Cal Poly student to pair up with members of Congress for a three-month experience in Washington, D.C. Over the years, there have been 15 Cal Poly students who have participated in the program. The students engage in basic office work as well as staffing representatives at critical meetings and hearings in the nation’s capitol.
Fortune served on the California State University (CSU) system Board of Trustees for the past eight years. She was recently named a trustee emerita, meaning that she has retired but retains an honorary title.
A graduate of both UC Berkeley and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Fortune sits on the California Charter Schools Association Board of Directors. She was also an education advisor for Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger while they were governors.
Fortune has also partnered with Cal Poly to host the Fortune School’s fifth grade class, where students are engaged in the Learn By Doing labs after a warm welcome from Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong.
In 2017, Fortune will open a Middle College High School focusing on STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, art and math) where students can earn a high school diploma and an associate of arts degree in four years. This school will be the first of its kind.