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Meet the 2007 Commencement Keynote Speaker: John Garamendi, Sr.

May 11, 2007

Meet the 2007 Commencement Keynote Speaker: John Garamendi, Sr.

As a student at UC Berkeley, California’s Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, Sr., was an All-American football player.

This year, he’s going to tackle Bobcat graduation as the keynote speaker at the May 18 ceremony.

UC Merced might be new, but not to Garamendi. He helped form the UC Merced Foundation Board, a body of influential campus friends charged with overseeing and supporting fundraising activities.

The longtime campus supporter said he’s excited to have the opportunity to address this year’s graduates.

“I cannot overemphasize how important UC Merced is to the Central Valley,” he said. “The resources of a world-class educational system located in Merced will undoubtedly help stimulate both the economic and cultural status of the region. It will also provide an opportunity for local students, who might not otherwise attend a UC campus, to enjoy the benefits of the University of California educational system.

“As a founding member of the university’s board, I am proud to have played a role in the creation of such an important addition to the Valley region and the state.”

Garamendi has a long history of public service here and abroad. After graduating from UC Berkeley and earning his MBA at Harvard, he served in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia.

He served in the State Assembly from 1974 to 1976 and in the State Senate from 1976 to 1990, including a term as senate majority leader. He became California’s first elected insurance commissioner, serving from 1991 to 1995.

In 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed Garamendi to act as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. He held that position until 1998, then returned to the California Department of Insurance in 2003, having won re-election.

This year, he was sworn in as the state’s 46th lieutenant governor.

He and his wife, Patti, who also served in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia, have six children - including UC Merced’s Vice Chancellor for University Relations John Garamendi, Jr. - and nine grandchildren. They live near Sacramento and operate a cattle ranch in the Sierra Nevada.