Speakers will include California earthquake expert Dr. Lucy Jones, “Titanic” and “Avatar” co-producer Jon Landau, and environmentalist Ocean Robbins

Honorary doctorates to be presented to Japanese American alumnus interned during WWII, alumnus who became nation’s first African American umpire, among others

ORANGE, Calif., April 26, 2012 — Chapman University’s 151st annual Commencement ceremonies will take place on Friday and Saturday, May 18 and 19, 2012.   Each of the university’s seven schools and colleges will hold its own ceremony, either on Wilson Field (in the football stadium) or on the Bert Williams Mall (the lawn in front of historic Memorial Hall).  More than 1,700 students – the largest graduating class in Chapman’s history – will receive undergraduate and graduate degrees at the ceremonies.

Each ceremony will feature a commencement speaker of note, including California Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye (School of Law), Chapman economics professor Dr. Don Booth (Argyros School of Business and Economics), retired Disney live entertainment director Larry Billman (College of Performing Arts), environmentalist and author Ocean Robbins (Wilkinson College of Humanities and Social Sciences), earthquake expert Dr. Lucy Jones (Schmid College of Science and Technology), Santa Ana Superintendent of Schools Dr. Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana (College of Educational Studies), and “Titanic” and “Avatar” co-producer and Oscar winner Jon Landau (Dodge College of Film and Media Arts).

Four honorary doctorates will also be conferred:  the Rev. Dr. Paul Nagano, who in 1942, as a Chapman College student, was removed from college and placed in an internment camp for Japanese Americans in Poston, Ariz., will receive an honorary Doctor of the University degree from Wilkinson College; noted Laguna Beach sculptor Nicholas Hernandez will receive an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from the College of Educational Studies; Emmett Ashford, Chapman Class of 1941, who became the nation’s first black Major League Baseball umpire, will receive a posthumous honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the College of Educational Studies; and film producer Landau will receive an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.


Friday, May 18

5:00 pm           School of Law Hooding and Conferral, Wilson Field

SPEAKER: Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye, J.D., Chief Justice of California


8:00 pm           George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics Commencement, Wilson Field

SPEAKER: Donald R. Booth, Ph.D., Chapman University Professor of Business and Economics


Saturday, May 19

8:00 am           College of Performing Arts Commencement, Bert Williams Mall

SPEAKER: Larry Billman, longtime Disney live entertainment director/writer


9:15 am           Wilkinson College of Humanities and Social Sciences Commencement, Wilson Field

SPEAKER: Ocean Robbins, environmental activist, founder and director of YES!

HONORARY DOCTORATE (Doctor of the University): Rev. Dr. Paul M. Nagano ’42: was taken out of Chapman College in 1942 to be interned in Poston, Ariz. with other Japanese-Americans during WWII.


11:30 am         Schmid College of Science and Technology Commencement, Bert Williams Mall

SPEAKER:  Lucy Jones,  Ph.D., California earthquake expert; U.S. Geological Survey and California Institute of Technology


4:30 pm           College of Educational Studies Commencement, Bert Williams Mall

SPEAKER: Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, Ph.D., superintendent of schools, Santa Ana Unified School District

HONORARY DOCTORATE (Doctor of Arts): Nicholas Hernandez, noted sculptor

HONORARY DOCTORATE (Doctor of Humane Letters, posthumous): Emmett Ashford ‘41, first black umpire in Major League Baseball; to be accepted by his daughter Adrienne Bratton)


6:30 pm           Lawrence and Kristina Dodge College of Film and Media Arts Commencement, Wilson Field

SPEAKER:  Jon Landau, Lightstorm Entertainment, Inc., co-producer with James Cameron of “Titanic” and “Avatar”

HONORARY DOCTORATE (Doctor of Arts): Jon Landau




Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye, J.D.

Speaker, School of Law Hooding and Conferral

Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye, J.D. is the 48th Chief Justice of the State of California.  The Filipino-American jurist was nominated by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for California’s highest judicial office in 2010, was retained by California voters, and was sworn in on January 3, 2011.  Prior to her current appointment, Cantil-Sakauye had served in judicial offices on California’s appellate and trial courts.


Donald R. Booth, Ph.D.

Speaker: George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics Commencement

Don Booth, Ph.D., is a professor of business and economics at Chapman University.  One of the longest-serving faculty members at the university, he began teaching at Chapman in 1959 and celebrated his 50th anniversary as a Chapman professor in 2009.


Larry Billman

Speaker: College of Performing Arts Commencement

Larry Billman had a celebrated 37-year career with the Walt Disney Company before retiring in 2007, serving as vice president for creative show development and creating hundreds of shows for Disney theme parks, resorts and cruise lines.  He also wrote and staged four editions of “Disney on Ice,” as well as six editions of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.    He continues as a consultant, lecturer and moderator for Fox, Warner Bros. and the Turner Classics Film Festival.


Ocean Robbins

Speaker: Wilkinson College of Humanities and Social Sciences Commencement

Author, speaker, facilitator, environmentalist and motivator Ocean Robbins is the co-author of “Choices for Our Future: A Generation Rising for Life on Earth” and founder of YES!, “a nonprofit organization that connects, inspires and collaborates with changemakers to join forces for thriving, just and sustainable ways of life for all.”


Lucy Jones, Ph.D.

Speaker: Schmid College of Science and Technology Commencement

Dr. Lucy Jones has been a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and a visiting research associate at the Seismological Laboratory of Caltech since 1983.  She is one of the California’s best-known experts on earthquakes, due to her frequent television appearances following the state’s notable seismic events.  She created and led the innovative Multi Hazards Demonstration Project in Southern California, a major product of which is the Great California ShakeOut, a public emergency-preparedness event involving more than 7 million people.


Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, Ph.D.

Speaker, College of Educational Studies Commencement

Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, Ph.D., is superintendent of schools for the Santa Ana Unified School District, the largest in Orange County with 56,000 students at 61 school sites.  She previously held the position of assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education at the U.S. Department of Education, and was voted California Superintendent of the Year in 2009 while serving as superintendent for the Pomona Unified School District, Calif.


Jon Landau

Speaker and Honorary Doctorate Recipient, Lawrence and Kristina Dodge College of Film and Media Arts Commencement

Jon Landau, partner with James Cameron in Lightstorm Entertainment, was co-producer and a driving force behind two of the highest-grossing films of all time, “Titanic,” which garnered 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and “Avatar,”  winner of three Academy Awards.  The ground-breaking visuals for both films transformed storytelling for the screen.  Landau’s other productions include “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “True Lies,” “Last of the Mohicans” and “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.”


Rev. Dr. Paul M. Nagano ’42

Honorary Doctorate, Wilkinson College of Humanities and Social Sciences

The Rev. Dr. Paul M. Nagano ’42 was removed by the U.S. government from his studies at Chapman College in 1942, at the age of 21, and was interned – along with hundreds of other Japanese Americans – at camps in Poston, Ariz. for the duration of WWII.   There he was ordained as an American Baptist minister and served as the camp minister.  Following the war he helped Japanese Americans to resettle into their communities, and founded an ecumenical church that ministered to all Japanese Americans throughout Southern California.   He founded the Los Angeles Japanese Baptist Church (now the Evergreen Baptist Church), which opened in 1946, and founded the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society in 1950.  He received his doctorate from the Claremont School of Theology and has since led numerous major Baptist churches and ministries throughout the West.   He is currently chaplain at the Atherton Baptist Homes in Atherton, Calif.


Nicholas Hernandez

Honorary Doctorate, College of Educational Studies

Acclaimed Laguna Beach-based sculptor Nicholas Hernandez began carving at the age of seven when L.A. sculptor Leon Salter first put a sculpting tool and a piece of granite in his hand.  Since then he has gone on to many accolades, and his award-winning works can be found in galleries and collections nationwide.  He won the prestigious Lorenzo il Magnifico di Medici Medal for Best in Show at the Florence (Italy) Biennale in 2005, over more than 890 works from 72 countries, with his sculpture “Emergence.”  That sculpture was purchased by Chapman University President James L. Doti and his wife Lynne; the couple donated it to Chapman University, where it was dedicated it to the students and placed prominently in the Escalette Arts Plaza.


Emmett Ashford ‘41

Honorary Doctorate (Posthumous), College of Educational Studies

Emmett Ashford, Chapman College Class of ’41, was the first African American to become an umpire in Major League Baseball.  At Chapman, Ashford was a baseball player and sports editor for the student newspaper.   In 1965, at age 51, he became the nation’s first black major league umpire, and was famed for his natty attire and charismatic animation behind home plate.  He umpired both the 1967 All-Star Game and the 1970 World Series.  After mandatory retirement in 1970, he became special assistant to Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn.   Ashford died in 1980 and was inducted posthumously into the Chapman University Athletics Hall of Fame in 1981.  His daughter Adrienne Bratton will accept his honorary doctorate.



Consistently ranked among the top universities in the West, Chapman University provides a uniquely personalized and interdisciplinary educational experience to highly qualified students. Our programs encourage innovation, creativity and collaboration, and focus on developing global citizen-leaders who are distinctively prepared to improve their community and their world. Visit www.chapman.edu.

Follow us on Facebook at: Chapman University Facebook

On Twitter at: @ChapmanU

On YouTube at: Chapman University YouTube Channel


MEDIA CONTACT:  Mary Platt, Director of Communications and Media Relations







Log In
Open Main Menu