UArizona will confer about 8,000 degrees at Commencement

students celebrating during a fireworks display at commencement

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 159th Commencement May 12.

The 90-minute event will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Arizona Stadium and will be streamed live on YouTube.

"We are excited to celebrate the class of 2023 and anticipate a great turnout of families and friends in Arizona Stadium to enjoy the festivities and give our graduates a proper send-off," said Heather Lukach, assistant vice president for presidential events and university ceremonies.

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.

More information for guests is available on the Commencement website.

Michael Tubbs

Michael Tubbs

This year's Commencement address will be delivered by Michael Tubbs, who became the youngest mayor of a major U.S. city in 2016 when he was elected to office in Stockton, California, at age 26.

Tubbs' election also made him the city's first African American mayor. He is now special adviser to California Gov. Gavin Newsom for economic mobility and opportunity. Tubbs is also the founder of the organizations Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, End Poverty in California and Tubbs Ventures, an investment firm.

"Michael Tubbs will inspire our graduates to pursue their hopes and dreams, just as he has done," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "We are honored to have him with us at this year's Commencement to share his story and message that will galvanize the class of 2023 to use their time and lessons from the university to serve others and make the world a better place."

Honorary degree recipients

The university will award six honorary degrees at this year's Commencement. The recipients are:

Charles "Chuck" Huckelberry
Doctor of Humane Letters from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

From bike paths to habitat conservation plans, bond packages to hospitals, the impact of Huckelberry's nearly five decades of public service is evident throughout Southern Arizona.

A native Tucsonan, Huckelberry earned a Bachelor of Science in mining engineering and a Master of Science in civil engineering from the university. Huckelberry became Pima County administrator in 1994 and remained in that position until his retirement in 2022. During his tenure, Huckelberry supervised great change in the region, including creating the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, overseeing numerous voter-approved bond packages, developing The Loop shared-use trail system that now bears his name, passing flood control improvements, expanding health services, and building the Kino Sports Complex. In addition to major, county-wide accomplishments, Huckelberry also oversaw the county's day-to-day operations and more than 7,300 employees under the direction of the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

Jon Jessen
Doctor of Science from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Jessen is a world leader in sustainable pest control and farming practices. He is chairman of the board of The Gowan Group, which develops, markets and manufactures crop protection products, seeds and fertilizers. A systems-oriented agriculturalist with a longstanding interest in soil health, Jessen has significantly impacted the field of drylands agriculture over the course of decades.

Jessen and his wife are also longtime supporters of the University of Arizona, having made numerous donations to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension, College of Veterinary Medicine, College of Medicine – Tucson, the Cancer Center and the Arthritis Center. Jessen endowed two chairs for Cooperative Extension faculty, and one chair each for the Sarver Heart Center, Steele Children's Research Center, and the Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center. Jessen is also a founding member and financial supporter of the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture, the university's public-private partnership to provide rapid response to pressing issues facing desert crop production systems and the sustainable, responsible practices of local growers.

Linda McCartney (posthumously)
Doctor of Fine Arts from the College of Fine Arts

McCartney distinguished herself through her exceptional and inspirational career as a photographer and she continues to have an enduring impact around the world.

While she did not graduate from the University of Arizona, McCartney studied art history there from 1961-1964 and often talked about how her time at the university inspired her career as a professional photographer. She began her career in the mid-1960s, chronicling the musical revolution of the decade. Her work has been exhibited in over 70 cities in 15 countries and now hangs in the national portrait galleries of both the United Kingdom and the United States. She is the only photographer to have ever been honored by three separate exhibitions at England's Royal Photographic Society.

She was instrumental in documenting musical history with her photographs of iconic musicians and went on to experiment with different photography printing types, as well as working with the themes of family life, documentary, nature and social commentary. Beyond her career as a photographer, McCartney was a musician and member of Wings with her husband, Paul McCartney, and she was as an advocate for animal rights. She was a pioneer in promoting the vegetarian lifestyle with her internationally best-selling vegetarian cookbooks and ready-made meals with Linda McCartney Foods. Her photography advanced the important work of many charitable organizations.

She was the proud mother of four children with Paul and said they were her greatest achievement.

"The Linda McCartney Retrospective" made its North American debut at the University of Arizona Center of Creative Photography this year.

Robert H. Mundheim
Doctor of Laws from the James E. Rogers College of Law

Robert H. Mundheim is an internationally renowned attorney whose 65-year career has spanned roles in the federal government, major law firms, publicly held corporations and academia. Mundheim is of counsel for Shearman & Sterling, a global law firm based in New York City, and a professor of corporate law and finance in the James E. Rogers College of Law.

From 1992-1999, Mundheim was general counsel for the investment bank Salomon Inc. Before that, he spent nearly 30 years at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he was the University Professor of Law and Finance and, from 1982-1989, dean. He has also held visiting professor roles at various law schools including at Duke University, Harvard University and UCLA. Mundheim was general counsel for the U.S. Treasury Department from 1977 to 1980 and played a substantial role in negotiating the release of U.S. hostages in Iran. Mundheim has also been special counsel for the Securities and Exchange Commission.

James C. Wyant
Doctor of Science from the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences

James C. Wyant, a pioneer in the optical sciences industry as a professor, dean, business leader and philanthropist, joined the university in 1974 as an assistant professor in what was then known as the Optical Sciences Center. He became director of the center in 1999 and led its transition to a college in 2005 as the founding dean, overseeing its tremendous growth in research and its physical expansion into state-of-the-art facilities.

Along with his work with the university, Wyant co-founded WYKO Corp. in 1982. The company – which came about after the invention of a computerized interferometer for high-precision measurements of the roughness and shape of surfaces – was purchased by Veeco Instruments in 1997. The Wyant family has given more than $32 million in support of optical sciences faculty and students, including endowed scholarships and faculty positions. In 2019, the college was named the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences in recognition of Wyant's role as founding dean, his dedication to inspiring through teaching, his pioneering innovations in optics and photonics, and his deeply generous philanthropy to enable education in optics.

Amy Zuckerman
Doctor of Humane Letters from the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health

Amy Zuckerman is a community advocate, photographer, and supporter of rural and public health. Zuckerman and her parents, Mel and Enid, have been longtime supporters of the University of Arizona, especially the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. Mel Zuckerman died on March 18 at age 94.

Amy Zuckerman has been a catalyst for social change around public health and is well-known for her work helping underserved communities. She also has served for many years on the boards of several Tucson organizations. Zuckerman is co-chair of the Zuckerman Family Foundation, which supported a Bachelor of Arts degree in wellness and health promotion practice at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. Inspired by the Zuckerman family's lifelong dedication to health and wellness, the degree was created to educate the next generation of wellness promoters and innovators. Zuckerman's efforts also have been instrumental to the growth of the College of Public Health's Zuckerman Family Center for Prevention and Health Promotion, a hub of applied research and outreach focused on community wellness and disease prevention.

Alumni Achievement Award recipients

Two Alumni Achievement Award recipients will also be honored during Commencement. 

Bob and Beverely Elliott are longtime Tucson business owners, philanthropists and volunteers whose accounting firm, Elliott Accounting Group, has served Tucson since 1983. Bob is founder and president of Elliott Accounting Group. Beverely, a retired educator, is executive director of the African American Museum of Southern Arizona, which the Elliotts opened in the university's Student Union Memorial Center in January. She also is vice president of Elliott Accounting Group.

Bob earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration and accounting and a Master of Business Administration from the Eller College of Management. Beverely earned her Bachelor of Science in health sciences and community health education from the University of Arizona and a master's degree in counseling and psychology from Prescott College after working for 12 years at Canyon Ranch. She spent much of her career as a teacher and counselor for the Tucson Unified School District.

Bob played basketball for the Wildcats from 1973-1977 and went on to a professional career in the NBA, playing for the New Jersey Nets from 1978-1981. He was a College Basketball Athletic and Academic All American and is the only University of Arizona athlete to be a member of the College Sports Communicators Academic All-America Hall of Fame.

Bob sits on the board of the Eller College of Management and ITC Holdings Corp., an electricity transmission company based in Michigan.

Beverely was named National Secondary School Counselor of the Year in 2006 by the American School Counselor Association. She also has received the School Counselor of the Year Award by the Arizona School Counselors Association and was named High School Counselor of the Year by the Tucson Unified School District. She currently serves on the boards of the University of Arizona Black Community Council and the African American Cultural and Historic Museum of Washtenaw County in Michigan.

Student award winners

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

Provost Award: Ryan Ellsworth, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in communication with a minor in criminology.

Robert Logan Nugent Awards: Kristijan Barnjak, who is graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy, politics, economics and law, a Bachelor of Arts in economics, and a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy with an emphasis in ethics, and Hillary Schiff, who is graduating summa cum laude with honors with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and a Bachelor of Arts in French.

Robie Gold Medal Awards: Jessica Plaza Rodríguez, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in family studies and human development and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish with an emphasis in Hispanic literature, and Mikah Wesley Rosanova, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in law, with minors in music and in gender and women's studies.

Merrill P. Freeman Medals: Vanessa Addison, who is graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry, and Elizabeth Grace Hala'ufia, who is graduating summa cum laude with honors with a Bachelor of Science in neuroscience and cognitive science, with a minor in biochemistry.

Read more about the student award winners in the University of Arizona News article "UArizona will recognize seven outstanding graduating seniors at Commencement."