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Commencement speakers announced for 2019 ceremonies

Anna Ullmann,
Staff Writer

Willamette will soon celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2019 during commencement, which takes place on Sunday, May 19 on the Quad. The College of Liberal Arts (CLA), the College of Law and the Atkinson Graduate School of Management will have separate ceremonies on the same day, with the Atkinson Graduate School of Management’s ceremony beginning at 9 a.m., the College of Law’s ceremony beginning at 11:30 a.m. and the CLA’s ceremony beginning at 2:30 p.m.

Each ceremony has its own guest speaker. Punit Renjen will speak for the Atkinson Graduate School of Management commencement, Jonathan Mayes will speak at the College of Law commencement and Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell will speak at the CLA commencement.

Punit Renjen:

According to Quartz India, Punit Renjen was born and grew up in Rohtak, India and was sent to boarding school at The Lawrence School, Sanawar, which is one of the most prestigious schools in India. At age 14, he returned to Rohtak and began to work due to his family’s inability to pay for the school. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in economics at a local college. After graduating, Renjen began working at Usha international, a home appliance company based in Delhi.

According to Deloitte.com, he was awarded a Rotary Foundation Scholarship in 1984, which funds undergraduate and graduate education for philanthropists and future leaders. With this scholarship, he went to Salem, OR, where he attended WU with a full ride scholarship and in 1986, graduated from the Atkinson Graduate School of Management with a Master’s degree in Management. Today, his name appears on the Renjen Center, which houses the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA).

In 1988, Renjen was hired at Deloitte, which is an international network that provides professional services like audit, consultary, tax and advisory services. At Deloitte, he has served in many positions, including CEO of Deloitte Consulting LLP and chairman of Deloitte LLP. Since 2015, he has served as CEO of Deloitte Global and also serves of on the board of directors for Deloitte. He also currently serves on the board of directors for Japan Society, United Way Worldwide and WU.

Jonathan Mayes:

According to Bloomberg, Jonathan Mayes was born in 1958. His LinkedIn shows that he attended Warner Pacific College, where he played baseball and ran track. He graduated in 1978 with a Bachelor’s degree in social science. He attended Willamette Law and graduated with a Juris Doctor (JD) in 1987.

After graduating, he worked as an attorney associate at Donahue Gallagher Woods LLP. He then worked as a senior attorney at American Stores, a corporation that ran chains of supermarkets and drug stores. Afterwards, he began working at Safeway as senior attorney and soon later served as Director of Government Relations. In 2001, he began serving as Vice President of Government Relations and was promoted to senior vice president of public relations, government relations, corporate social relations and philanthropy in 2010.

After Safeway’s merger with Albertsons, Mayes continued to serve in his position until 2017, when he was named the senior vice president of external affairs and chief diversity officer of Albertsons.

He has also served on the board of directors for many groups, including the Bay Area Council, California Business Roundtable, California Association of Grocers and the California Chamber of Commerce.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell:

Jocelyn Bell Burnell was born in Northern Ireland in 1943, according to Biography.com. As a young girl, she frequently visited the Armagh Planetarium in Ireland and was encouraged to study astronomy. She attended the Preparatory Department of Lurgan College, which did not offer science to girls until her and others’ parents protested. She then attended the Mount School, where she discovered her love for physics.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, she earned a Bachelor’s of Science in physics from University of Glasgow in 1965 and earned her PhD at University of Cambridge in 1969, where she discovered a neutron star once known as “Little Green Man 1.” She worked at many institutions following this, including University of Southampton, University College London, Open University, Princeton University, University of Bath, Oxford University, Mansfield College and the Royal Observatory.

Burnell helped build the Interplanetary Scintillation Array, a radio telescope. With this telescope, she and others discovered the first radio pulsars in 1967. Despite this discovery being awarded with the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1974, she did not receive recognition for her efforts.

She has also served as President of the Royal Astronomical Society and as President of the Institute of Physics. In 2018, she received the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics and donated the entire amount to help underrepresented graduate students study physics.

Renjen, Mayes and Bell Burnell all have spectacular stories of success and hard work to share to this year’s graduates of WU. With brilliant and dedicated scholars, commencement will be an event not to miss.


Photos courtesy of Willamette University’s website

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