USD Holds Graduation Ceremonies on May 17 and Over Memorial Day Weekend

Media Contact: Liz Harman


Ashley Wood (Law School)


Law Grad & Decorated Navy Officer Started Veterans’ Law Group

Navy Pilot Who Flew Tsunami Relief Missions to Earn Nonprofit Leadership Degree

First Class from School of Peace to Graduate

Science & Nurse Grads Helped Plan Children’s Hospital in Uganda

USD Student and Mom to Graduate this Spring

Twenty-three New Navy & Marine Officers to Receive Degrees

Eight Grads Selected for Teach for America Program

Championship Athletes Josh Johnson & Amanda Rego to Graduate

Some 2,200 new University of San Diego graduates in law, business, nursing, education and other fields will receive their degrees in ceremonies this month. The School of Law will graduate 400 students on May 17. Some 1,800 students will graduate in three other ceremonies over the Memorial Day weekend, May 24 and 25.

Hundreds of the graduates are San Diego residents whose family and friends will join them for the celebration. Many are the first in their family to earn a college degree.

A full schedule and ideas for graduation features and interviews follows. Media parking is available in the parking lot next to the Jenny Craig Pavilion where all the ceremonies will take place.

USD Law Commencement

Saturday, May 17

9 a.m., Jenny Craig Pavilion

400 graduates

Speaker: Thomas P. O’Brien, USD School of Law Class of ’93, is the U.S. Attorney for Central California, representing the federal government in virtually all litigation in Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. Prior to his selection he was chief of the Criminal Division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and before that chief of the Civil Rights Division where he prosecuted hate crimes, human trafficking and police misconduct. He has received numerous awards from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency and other agencies.

Possible graduate interviews: Andrew Haden, a five-year decorated Navy officer with two overseas deployments, founded a veterans’ law group for his fellow veterans, many of whom completed tours, have spouses overseas or are still on active duty. Prior to his selection he was chief of the Criminal Division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and before that chief of the Civil Rights Division where he prosecuted hate crimes, human trafficking and police misconduct. He has received numerous awards from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency and other agencies.

Kate McElhone, an evening student graduating with one of the highest grade point averages in the class, has a Ph.D. and works in the biological sciences. She has accepted a position with the firm of Morrison & Foerster after she completes a clerkship with a federal judge.

USD Graduate Commencement

(College of Arts & Sciences, School of Business Administration, School of Nursing and School of Peace Studies)

Saturday, May 24

1 p.m., Jenny Craig Pavilion

650 master’s and doctoral degrees

Speaker: Navy Commander Maureen M. Pennington, senior nurse executive at Navy Medical Center in San Diego.  

Possible graduate interviews: Navy pilot Renee Scherr’s experience flying relief missions following the 2004 tsunami motivated her to enter USD’s Nonprofit Leadership and Management program. When her service in the Navy ends in January, she plans to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector.

Matthew Cerchie, who will receive a master’s in clinical nursing, was part of a team that traveled to southern Uganda last spring. He used his expertise to help plan a children’s hospital that could save thousands of youngsters from dying of malaria and other infectious diseases.

Among this year’s inaugural Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies graduates are several international students who will be returning to their home countries in places such as Kenya, South Africa and Latvia.  Upon receiving their master’s degrees from USD, many of these students plan to use their degrees and training to pursue careers in peace building and conflict resolution. 

USD College of Arts & Sciences Graduation

Sunday, May 25

9 a.m. at the Jenny Craig Pavilion

650 bachelor’s degrees

Speaker: Ken Hackett has been president of Catholic Relief Services, one of the world’s most effective and efficient relief and development agencies, since 1983. He supervised operations in East Africa during the Somalia crisis in the early 1990s and guided CRS’s response the Ethiopian famine in 1984-85. CRS operates facilities in 100 countries and employs 5,000.   

Possible graduate interviews: Valedictorian Justin Webster has a 4.0 grade point average and earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in physics and has done research on carbon nanotubes – billionth of a meter-sized particles with applications in electronics, optics and other technologies.

Science majors Ashley Parks and Raffaela Abbriano traveled to Uganda to study how to mitigate the environmental impacts from the proposed children’s hospital.

Pauline Gonzales speaks Spanish, Italian and German and was awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to teach English and American culture this fall in Germany.

Spring Valley student Claudia Llamas is the first in her family to graduate from college but only by a week. Claudia’s mother, Maria, will receive her associate’s degree from Cuyamaca College June 4. Mother and daughter studied together and supported each other while earning their degrees.

Eight USD graduates, including Lisa Saldias, were accepted into the highly selected “Teach for America” program that serves low-income communities across the country.

Football star Josh Johnson and basketball star Amanda Rego will both receive their degrees.

USD School of Business Administration, Engineering and Diversified Liberal Arts Graduation

Sunday, May 25

2 p.m. at the Jenny Craig Pavilion

500 bachelor’s degrees

Speaker: Matthew H. Paull, served as McDonald’s Corp. chief financial officer from 2001 until his retirement this year.  

Possible graduate interviews: Valedictorian Michael Burroughs has a 4.00 grade point average and will receive his degree in accounting. Before starting his career, he will travel to Africa to work for a micro-finance organization.

Business grad Katie Rasinski was chosen for the highly competitive management training program at Target Corp.

Twenty-three newly commissioned Navy and Marine officers will receive degrees.

The University of San Diego is a Catholic institution of higher learning chartered in 1949; the school enrolls some 7,500 undergraduate and graduate students and is known for its commitment to teaching, the liberal arts, the formation of values and community service. The 2007 inauguration of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies brings the University’s total number of schools and colleges to six. Other academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences and the schools of Business Administration, Leadership and Education Sciences, Law and Nursing and Health Sciences.


About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 8,000 students from 75 countries and 44 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. USD’s eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD recently concluded our successful $317M Leading Change: The Campaign for USD, which represented the most ambitious fundraising effort in the history of the university. In September 2016, USD introduced Envisioning 2024, a strategic plan that capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.