UA to Confer Nearly 6,000 Degrees
About 4,500 graduates and 40,000 guests are expected to attend Commencement on Friday in Arizona Stadium. Two UA alumni, Gilbert G. Aguirre and Mohammed Sharaf, will be awarded honorary degrees.

University Communications
May 9, 2018


The Commencement-closing fireworks in Arizona Stadium always provide a plethora of photo opportunities for all.
The Commencement-closing fireworks in Arizona Stadium always provide a plethora of photo opportunities for all. (Photo: John de Dios/UANews)

University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins will confer about 5,900 degrees on students in the Class of 2018 — including bachelor's degrees, master's/specialist degrees, doctorates, juris doctor degrees, medical degrees and doctorates in pharmacy — at the UA's 154th Commencement on Friday evening in Arizona Stadium. About 4,500 graduates and 40,000 guests are expected to attend.

The keynote address will be delivered by Ray Mabus, former secretary of the Navy, governor of Mississippi and U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia. 

Appointed by President Barack Obama, Mabus served as secretary of the Navy from 2009-2017, the longest tenure since World War I. As elected auditor for the state of Mississippi in the early 1980s, Mabus built a reputation for cracking down on public corruption. In 1987, he was elected Mississippi's governor at age 39, becoming the state's youngest governor in more than 150 years. 

During Mabus' four years as governor, he emphasized education and job creation. He passed Better Education for Success Tomorrow, or B.E.S.T., and gave Mississippi's teachers the largest pay raise in the country. He was named one of Fortune magazine's top 10 education governors. In a 2000 poll, Mississippi voters ranked Mabus the best governor of the 20th century. 

"Our graduates complete their degrees ready to make transformational impact in our world, and Ray Mabus is an ideal person to give them an opportunity to reflect on what that potential means," Robbins said. "He has an impeccable record of service and leadership, and I know he will inspire the Class of 2018 to do great things. I'm excited to share the Commencement platform with him."

Mabus is now CEO of The Mabus Group, a strategic advisory firm focusing on helping organizations develop resiliency and gain competitive advantages through change, and an adviser to Google Ventures. He serves as a lecturer at Harvard Law School, where he earned his law degree. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Mississippi and a master's degree from Johns Hopkins University. 

Two UA alumni, Gilbert G. Aguirre and Mohammed Sharaf, will be awarded honorary degrees. Aguirre will receive an Honorary Doctor of Science from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Sharaf will receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the Eller College of Management and College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

As Rancho Mission Viejo's executive vice president/ranch operations, Aguirre is responsible for the daily land management of the 23,000-acre mixed-use master-planned community in Southern California. Rancho Mission Viejo is the largest family-held landholding in Orange County and is the last remaining cattle ranch in the region.

In addition to overseeing all of Rancho Mission Viejo's ranching, farming, agricultural and industrial leasing, and related ranching interests, Aguirre is a member of the ranch's executive committee and has participated in all major land-development decisions for more than 40 years. He has long been recognized as a leader in the ranching industry.

Born in Tucson in 1935, Aguirre graduated from the UA in 1957 with a bachelor's degree in animal science. He received a lifetime achievement award from the UA in 2009 for his support of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. In 2013, he was named the CALS Alumnus of the Year.

Sharaf is the assistant minister for economic and trade affairs at the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, a position he has held since July 2016.

After graduating from the UA in 1985 with a degree in business administration, Sharaf began his shipping career working on the docks of Howland Hook terminal in New York. He turned down several offers from government-related firms in the UAE to take the position as a tally clerk, which helped him learn about wharf life.

In 1992, Sharaf joined Dubai Ports Authority and rose rapidly through the organization, holding a number of senior positions, including commercial director. In 2001, he became managing director of the newly established Dubai Ports International. At DPI, Sharaf managed a major international growth strategy that included the successful acquisition of CSX WT and the P&O Group. With the integration of domestic and international arms of the Dubai Ports organization, the global port operator DP World was formed in 2005. Sharaf served as Group CEO of DP World, now the world's fourth-largest port operator. 

For the UAE Ministry, Sharaf currently leads the innovation team and is chairman of two committees. He also is joint vice chairman of the UAE International Investors Council, which acts as a link between UAE international investors and the government.

Extra info


154th UA Commencement


Arizona Stadium


7:30 p.m. Friday, May 11 (gates open at 5:30)

More Commencement information can be found online:  

Also: Follow Commencement coverage using the hashtag #BearDownLife 


Resources for the media

Doug Carroll

University Communications