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Cal Poly commencement set for June 11-12 

cal poly graduation

Almost 5,500 grads and 50,000 family, friends, and supporters expected at six college celebrations at Spanos Stadium

– Nearly 5,500 Cal Poly students are eligible to be honored in this year’s six spring commencement ceremonies Saturday and Sunday, June 11 and 12, at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.

The 2022 commencement will feature each Cal Poly college hosting an in-person celebration. This year’s ceremonies will be held at 8:30 a.m., 12:30, and 4:30 p.m. each weekend day. An estimated 50,000 guests are expected across all the ceremonies.

Masks and distancing will not be required in the stadium. The Class of 2022 began their campus experience in the fall of 2018 as most previous freshmen classes had. However, their sophomore year was upended by the rapid spread of coronavirus. As the pandemic forced students home and classes online, with a steady transition back to on-campus living and in-person learning over the last two years, these graduates have proved their mettle.

“Succeeding in higher education and earning a degree is a mammoth achievement even under the best of circumstances — to say nothing of navigating the obstacles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. But Cal Poly students are up to the challenge, and this weekend we will celebrate that success for several thousand new graduates,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong.

“The skills and knowledge they leave Cal Poly with will help them reach the summit of their career goals and foster their transformation into industry standouts and future leaders. Our faculty pushed them to be the best students, and we feel it will help them find success in whatever they choose to do.”

Honorary degrees

Three university alumni will receive honorary degrees. This year’s recipients of honorary doctorates include: John Salmonson, an agricultural businessman and ag industry leader; Southern California newscaster Laura Diaz, a 14-time Emmy Award winning anchor, reporter and producer; and the late Jim Copeland, a longtime San Luis Obispo County business leader who was instrumental in revitalizing downtown San Luis Obispo.

Copeland, who died April 25 at age 80, will receive a posthumous honorary doctorate of humane letters June 12 during the Orfalea College of Business ceremony. He graduated from San Luis Obispo High in 1959, and attended the College of the Sequoias in Visalia and later Cal Poly, before joining the U.S. Army. He and his brother, Tom, co-founded Copeland Sports, growing a single sporting goods store in San Luis Obispo to more than 50 locations in four states. They sold the retail chain along with other sporting goods manufacturing companies in 2001.

The Copelands were instrumental in revitalizing downtown San Luis Obispo by preserving historic buildings and creating new developments, including Hotel San Luis Obispo, Downtown Center, and Court Street. They also own premier office buildings and retail centers throughout the nation as partners in Jamestown, an Atlanta-based real estate investment and management company.

Jim Copeland and his wife, Sandy, are philanthropists, supporting health care, the arts, academia, and athletics. They are founding sponsors of French Hospital Medical Center’s Copeland, Forbes & Rossi Cardiac Care Center, Hearst Cancer Resource Center and Copeland Health and Education Pavilion, as well as significant donors to the Christopher Cohen Performing Arts Center, San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum, Old Mission School retrofit, and the new San Luis Obispo County Jail Behavioral Health Unit that benefits inmates with mental health issues.

Invaluable champions of Cal Poly’s academic and athletic success, Jim and Sandy, along with Tom and his wife, Pam, started the Elijah McCoy Scholars program, a scholarship for Black engineering students, funding 10 full-ride scholarships. Additionally, Jim and Sandy have provided for campus improvements, including the beach volleyball complex, baseball clubhouse, Mott Athletic Center, and the future tennis pavilion, a state-of-the-art two-story tennis clubhouse adjacent to Mustang Tennis Complex that will add NCAA Championship-level lighting.

Diaz, who has anchored, reported and produced for several flagship Los Angeles television stations — including KABC, KCBS and KTLA — for more than two decades, will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters during the College of Liberal Arts ceremony. She joined FOX 11 KTTV and KCOP in May 2012. In June of 2015, she delivered the keynote commencement address to the College of Liberal Arts and Orfalea College of Business.

Diaz defined her dreams while studying at Cal Poly as an English major who first hoped to write fiction. But her love of storytelling took another form in journalism. As a Cal Poly senior, she interned at the NBC affiliate, KSBY TV in San Luis Obispo. Diaz discovered she had a knack for news gathering and loved the spontaneity and unpredictability of live TV. She graduated in 1994, and the station hired her full-time at the end of the internship.

In less than three years, Diaz hopscotched from San Luis Obispo to Fresno to Los Angeles — her hometown and the nation’s second largest television market. She once again worked her way up the ranks at KABC and in 1997 was named lead anchor and established one of many career milestones: She is the first person of Latin heritage to hold that position at an English language station in Southern California. The daughter of Mexican immigrants has remained in L.A., a fixture on TV, currently at Fox 11 News and KCOP 13. Her work has garnered several Golden Mike Awards and the L.A. Press Club’s highest honor, the Joseph M. Quinn Memorial Award for Journalistic Achievement and Distinction, in 2003.

Salmonson, also a Cal Poly alumnus, will receive an honorary doctorate of science during the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences ceremony.

After graduating in 1967, Salmonson joined the Diamond Shamrock Corp. as a salesman who worked throughout the Midwest and South. In 1970, Diamond transferred him to Northern California as a regional manager. While there, he jumped at the opportunity to work at a small firm, Monterey Chemical Co. In 1975, the company owner died, and Salmonson purchased Monterey Chemical.

Hiring many fellow Cal Poly graduates, Salmonson expanded the company, selling products across the state and into the Midwest, and then began exporting to Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, and many other places in the world.

As the company grew, Salmonson became active in state, national and international agriculture associations. He served in leadership roles on numerous state, regional and national boards and associations. He also has remained active at Cal Poly serving on the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences Dean’s Advisory Council since 2001 and on the Cal Poly Foundation Board. He was named the college’s honored alumnus in 2011.

Salmonson feels that his experience at Cal Poly gave him the confidence to be successful in running his company, now called Monterey AgResources.

Parking and alternative transportation

Although parking permits are not required for commencement weekend, campus parking will be highly impacted because of the expected large crowds. Consider using alternative transportation such as SLO Transit, Uber, Lyft, carpooling or bicycling to avoid delays.

New this year is a Bike Valet, featuring secure bicycle parking service, in lot C7. Bus-goers can ride free to and from campus on SLO Transit by showing your ceremony ticket. Uber and Lyft drop-off locations are in lots C7 on the northern end of California Boulevard, via Highland Drive, and C2d accessible from the south California campus entrance via Campus Way.

Parking is available off Highland Drive in lots H1, H12, H14 and H16. Accessible/ADA parking for guests with mobility impairments will be available in lots H2a, H10, C7 and the Grand Avenue parking structure (No. 130). All vehicles must have a valid accessible parking place card or license plate to park in accessible lots.

Shuttles will travel between parking lots/structures and the stadium throughout the day to guests with mobility impairments and one companion. Wheelchair rentals are available for guests with mobility impairments. For additional parking and shuttle information, visit https://commencement.calpoly.edu/spring.

For more on parking lot locations, visit https://maps.calpoly.edu/.

2022 Commencement Schedule

Saturday, June 11
8:30 a.m. College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences; John Salmonson, honorary degree recipient
12:30 p.m. College of Architecture and Environmental Design
4:30 p.m. College of Engineering

Sunday, June 12
8:30 a.m. Orfalea College of Business; Jim Copeland, posthumous honorary degree recipient
12:30 p.m. College of Science and Mathematics
4:30 p.m. College of Liberal Arts; Laura Diaz, honorary degree recipient

For additional details on commencement, including live streaming of the ceremonies, visit: https://commencement.calpoly.edu/spring.

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The news staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote or edited this story from local contributors and press releases. The news staff can be reached at info@pasoroblesdailynews.com.