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2009 Commencement Speakers Announced

Preparations are already underway for the 2009 Commencement on May 17, including the announcement of this year’s speakers. Bob Herbert, New York Times Op-Ed columnist, will deliver the keynote address, and playwright Luis Valdez and Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich ’75 will also speak.

Bob Herbert has been a journalist since 1970, working at the Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey, and rising to city editor and member of the editorial board of The Daily News. He later worked in broadcast journalism as the host of WNYC-TV’s Hotline, as a founding panelist of WCBS-TV’s Sunday Edition, and as a national correspondent for NBC, reporting regularly on The Today Show and NBC Nightly News.

Herbert joined The New York Times in 1993, where he continues to write a twice-weekly Op-Ed column. He’s the author of Promises Betrayed: Waking Up From the American Dream (Times Books, 2005), and has received numerous awards, including the American Society of Newspaper Editors award for distinguished newspaper writing.

After two successful runs of his play Zoot Suit at Pomona, playwright Luis Valdez is a well-known name on campus. He founded the Obie award-wining and longest-running U.S. Chicano theater company El Teatro Campesino in 1965 amidst the United Farm Workers struggle, and many of his works chronicle Chicano social struggles and culture. His plays include I Don’t Have to Show You No Stinkin’ Badges, Corridos and Mummified Deer.

Zoot Suit, a fictionalized account of the Los Angeles riots of 1943, was the first Chicano play on Broadway and the first Chicano major feature film. Valdez also wrote and directed the Golden Globe Best Picture nominee La Bamba, the story of the short but vibrant life of singer Ritchie Valens. Valdez has received countless awards, including the Presidential Medal of Arts, a Rockefeller fellowship, and induction into the College of Fellows of the American Theatre at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington DC.

Journalist Mary Schmich ’75, who worked in Pomona’s admissions office after graduating, has been with the Chicago Tribune since 1985, producing a general interest column three times a week. In 1997, her column commonly known as “Wear sunscreen” became an internet hit, a widely disseminated e-mail forward that was originally misattributed to Kurt Vonnegut. Time straightened out the confusion, and later in 1999, the column later was used as the lyrics of a hit song by filmmaker Baz Luhrmann.

Schmich has also written the comic strip Brenda Starr since 1985, and regularly appears on WGN Radio in Chicago. She won the Studs Terkel Award in 2004 for coverage of Chicago communities, and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2005. For more information on Schmich, read this Pomona College Magazine profile from 2004.