Career educator Ramon C. Cortines, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, encouraged master’s degree and doctoral students at Loyola Marymount University to “think deeply and grapple with the challenges we face today” and to use their talents to address society’s stubborn problems.
Addressing the Graduate Division Commencement on Sunday, May 10, 2009, Cortines said, “This university sits on a beautiful hill overlooking the real world. Draw on your experiences here to improve the quality of life, for yourself and others.” He was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters during the ceremony.
Cortines, who guides approximately 900 elementary, middle school and high school campuses, focused on the needs of education. “Challenges in education … need fresh thinking,” Cortines said.
Acknowledging that the world economy is in deep crisis, he emphasized the need to be optimistic in the face of serious challenges. Cortines called hope “perhaps the greatest word in the English language” and advised the graduates to be consummate and lifelong learners. “There is always a great future for those with imaginative, well-prepared minds [and who are] generous and with open hearts,” he said.
Cortines taught sixth grade in a small school district near Monterey, Calif., and high school English in Covina, Calif., before ascending the administrative ladder from assistant principal to the superintendent of districts in Pasadena, Calif., San Francisco, San Jose, New York and Los Angeles. In addition to a bachelor’s degree, he holds master’s degrees in school administration and adult learning. Cortines has advised every U.S. president or his secretary of education since the Carter administration.