About 8,000 degrees to be awarded at Commencement

graduates celebrate at commencement

The University of Arizona conferred about 8,000 degrees during its 159th Commencement in Arizona Stadium on May 12. (Photo: Chris Richards/University Communications)

Chris Richards/University Communications

University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins will confer about 8,000 bachelor's, master's, doctoral and professional degrees at the university's 160th Commencement May 10.

The approximately 90-minute ceremony will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Arizona Stadium and will be streamed live on YouTube. About 30,000 guests attend the university's Commencement celebration each year.

"We are so excited to celebrate the unstoppable class of 2024," said Heather Lukach, assistant vice president for presidential events and university ceremonies. "This year, our community of alumni, families and friends submitted their photos and videos of well wishes to be played for the grads. Also this year, we celebrate the tradition of cap decorating by graduates, where winning mortarboards will be featured during the event. We anticipate another great turnout for the festivities in Arizona Stadium and ask all our guests to plan accordingly to have the best experience celebrating with their graduates."

The stadium's Gate 7, at the southwest corner of the facility, will open at 5:30 p.m. for early access to the shaded west side of the stadium. All other gates will open at 6:30 p.m. Guest seating is on a first-come, first-served basis, and no tickets are required. 

The university will enforce game-day rules at all guest entrances, including enforcing the stadium's clear bag policy and using metal detectors for screening. No large bags, backpacks or parcels will be permitted. All in-hand items must be placed in the appropriate and approved clear bag. 

Balloons, signs, banners or flags of any kind will not be permitted.

More information for guests is available on the Commencement website.

Craig T. Nelson

Originally from Spokane, Washington, Nelson drove his 1956 Studebaker from Spokane to Tucson in the fall of 1965 to attend the University of Arizona on a drama scholarship. In February, the stage in the university's Marroney Theatre became the Craig T. Nelson Stage.

Chris Richards/University Communications

Craig T. Nelson, an Emmy Award-winning actor, writer, director, producer and UArizona alumnus, will deliver the Commencement address

Nelson, who studied drama at the university, has become one of the most recognizable figures in American film and television. He starred in the TV show "Coach" and the 1982 film "Poltergeist," and he voiced Mr. Incredible in the Pixar superhero film "The Incredibles."

Nelson has maintained his ties to the university's School of Theatre, Film and Television. In 2018, he returned to Tucson to meet with students and take part in the launch of the public phase of a fundraising campaign to renovate Marroney Theatre. In February, after the renovations were completed, the theater's stage became the Craig T. Nelson Stage. An anonymous donation made the renaming possible.

"Craig T. Nelson's career embodies the determination and exploration that we hope to inspire in all our graduates," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "Speaking from his experience – both in life and as a Wildcat – Nelson will urge graduates to make bold decisions as they start their careers. Many of our 2024 graduates were unable to have a proper high school graduation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I can think of no better person to give these graduates the outstanding send-off they deserve."

Honorary degree and Alumni Achievement Award recipients

Nelson will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from the College of Fine Arts. He is one of six honorary degree recipients this year. The other recipients are: 

Ricardo Jasso
Doctor of Humane Letters from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and College of Science

A cultural scholar, community leader, mentor and advocate, Jasso has spent more than five decades identifying and addressing barriers to the prosperity of Mexican Americans in the United States and has helped improve health and social service approaches among providers throughout Arizona and around the nation.

In 2006, Jasso founded Amistades, Inc., a Latino-serving nonprofit committed to addressing race and equity issues in Southern Arizona. The organization provides culturally responsive social services, advocacy for social justice and community empowerment. The organization collaborates with the university; local and regional government; police and sheriff's department offices; county and state departments of health; tribal leaders; and grassroots community organizers. Amistades has hosted events across campus, worked closely with a number of UArizona faculty on research, provided mentorship for undergraduate interns training to be the next generation of community activists and collaborated on various studies and initiatives.

Steve Kerr
Doctor of Humanities from the College of Humanities

Kerr is an NBA champion, award-winning coach, social justice advocate, philanthropist and Wildcat. A standout basketball player at UArizona, Kerr was twice named first-team all-conference and earned all-American honors his senior year. Kerr graduated from the university in 1988 with a bachelor's degree in general studies.

What followed was a storied, 15-year career in the NBA that included five NBA championships. Kerr continued his success as a broadcaster and general manager, and currently serves as head coach of the Golden State Warriors. He has led the organization to four national titles. In 2016, Kerr was named NBA Coach of the Year, and he was named one of the Top 15 Coaches in NBA History as part of the organization's 75th anniversary celebration. He has also represented the United States in international play, winning the FIBA World Championship as a player in 1986 and Olympic Gold as an assistant coach in 2020.

Kerr uses his position to speak out on important social issues, and his influential stances on matters ranging from racial justice to gun violence prevention have sparked meaningful conversations and driven tangible change in communities across the United States.

Humberto S. Lopez
Doctor of Humane Letters from the Eller College of Management

Lopez is a graduate of the Eller College of Management and a longtime supporter of the university. Lopez co-founded HSL Properties, one of Arizona's largest owner-operated apartment and hotel property management companies. In 2004, he and his wife, Czarina, created the H.S. Lopez Family Foundation to facilitate their philanthropic efforts.

The Lopez family has contributed millions to the university, supporting a variety of initiatives and endowed faculty positions in Eller and across campus. The family established the Endowed Chair for Excellence in Cardiovascular Research at the Sarver Heart Center in the College of Medicine – Tucson, as well as a dean's position in the college. The family also established the Dhaliwal-HSLopez Chair in Eller's HSLopez School of Business Analytics, to which they also donated $9 million. 

Lopez was named the Southern Arizona Chamber of Commerce's Man of the Year in 2006 and received UArizona's Hispanic Man of the Year award the following year. He was also named the Eller College of Management's Alumnus of the Year in 2022, and has received numerous honors from the University of Arizona Foundation, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the City of Tucson and other government institutions. 

Bruce Taylor
Doctor of Science from the College of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences

 Taylor serves as chairman and CEO of Taylor Fresh, also known as Taylor Farms, the largest producer of salads and fresh-cut vegetables in North America. 

Taylor Farms opened its first Arizona-based salad plant in Yuma in 1997. The company was one of the original industry partners to help launch the university's Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture. Under Taylor's leadership, Taylor Farms invests over $15 million each year in philanthropy focused on enhancing education opportunities, character building and career preparation for students, and rebuilding community infrastructure. 

While serving on the Western Growers Association's science and technology committee, Taylor advocated for the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement, a coalition of California and Arizona farmers formed after a 2007 E. coli outbreak. Associated growers, who together produce approximately 90% of the leafy greens grown in the U.S., have voluntary, USDA-certified audits throughout the season to ensure compliance with food safety practices. 

A longtime supporter of the university, Taylor has donated more than $1.2 million to support the Arizona Experiment Station, Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture, Steele Children's Research Center, Ag100 Council and endowed chairs for Cooperative Extension faculty.

Ann Zwicker Kerr-Adams
Doctor of Humane Letters from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Kerr-Adams, a native of Southern California, has spent more than 15 years living, studying and teaching in the Middle East. She works as the coordinator for visiting Fulbright scholars at the University of California, Los Angeles, and teaches students about U.S. interests in greater Middle East diplomacy and perceptions of U.S. foreign policy abroad. 

A lifelong supporter of education and tolerance, Kerr-Adams has worked with numerous institutions that aim to cultivate peace and global understanding. When she was a college student, she traveled to Lebanon to study abroad at the American University of Beirut. There, she met Malcolm Kerr, who she married in 1956 and with whom she had four children. In 1982, Malcolm accepted the role as president of the American University of Beirut. He was assassinated outside his office on Jan. 18, 1984. Following her husband's death, Kerr-Adams embarked on her own mission to foster understanding among diverse communities around the world.

Kerr-Adams and her family have generously donated to a number of academic institutions. In 2017, Kerr-Adams established the Kerr Family Centennial Scholars Endowment at UCLA to support students from the Middle East. She also helped establish the Kerr Family Scholarship at U Arizona, an endowment dedicated to her late husband and their son, Steve – a U Arizona alumnus, NBA champion and award-winning coach. The scholarship, intended to help support students of Middle Eastern background, is awarded to international students who have demonstrated excellence in their studies at the university.

Alumni Achievement Award recipients

Two Alumni Achievement Award recipients will be honored during Commencement.  

Scott Cohen is an entrepreneur and investor with a demonstrated track record of building successful tech companies over the last two decades. Most recently, Cohen co-founded Byte, which became the leading direct-to-consumer brand for oral care and invisible aligners. Three years later, in January 2021, Dentsply Sirona acquired Byte for over $1 billion. Prior to that, Cohen was the founder and CEO of 180fusion, a leading search engine marketing platform that was acquired by Deluxe Corporation. From 2000-2010, Cohen led Silicon Valley software companies PSS Systems and Certus before the companies were acquired by IBM and Cisco, respectively.

Cohen was honored with the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2021 and currently serves as an adviser and investor to several growth companies in the tech sector. Cohen is also active in the nonprofit community and sits on the boards of the United Way, Saint John's Health Center Foundation, the Prostate Cancer Research Institute, the L.A. Chamber of Commerce and Jewish Graduate Student Initiative. In addition, he started a charitable arm in each of his operating companies to give back locally and nationally. 

Cohen frequently lectures at universities on the topics of entrepreneurship, leadership, and digital marketing. 

Blake Johnson is a Los Angeles-based entrepreneur who has successfully founded, self-funded and sold a variety of businesses that currently exceed $1.15 billion in valuations. Johnson, with Cohen, was co-founder of Byte.

Prior to Byte, Johnson was the founder and chairman of four other companies, all of them successfully selling to private equity firms. Currency Capital, CapNet and IM Capital Access were named on the Los Angeles Business Journal's Best Places to Work, and several of his ventures have landed him on the Inc 500/5000 list of fastest growing privately held companies. Johnson, along with Cohen, was honored in 2021 with the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award and currently serves on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters, YPO Los Angeles and Providence St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica. 

Johnson also is a significant benefactor and founder of The Blake Johnson Alliance, supporting many institutions locally and abroad including Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Los Angeles Mission, NFTE, the Boy Scouts of America, the International Justice Mission, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the Ronald McDonald House, The Webb Schools of California, The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, The Walker Art Center and The Morgan Library and Museum in New York City.

Both Cohen and Johnson are graduates of the university's Eller College of Management. 

Student award winners

Seven outstanding graduating students will be presented awards at Commencement. The awards and their recipients are:

Provost Award: Taylor Cavallaro, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in plant sciences.

Robert Logan Nugent Awards: Andrew Prouty, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in physiology and medical sciences with honors, and Larissa Lazaro Roncador, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology.

Robie Gold Medal Awards: Shinhye Chloe Park, who is graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry, and Noah Weaver, who is graduating with a double major in physiology and medical science.

Merrill P. Freeman Medals: Nguyen Dang, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in food safety, and Bao "Tintin" Nguyen, who is graduating summa cum laude with honors with a Bachelor of Science in physics, astronomy and mathematics.

Read more about the student award winners in the University of Arizona News article "Seven graduating students to receive awards at Commencement."