50th Commencement Speakers and Awardees
“Commencement is a joyous time for our graduates because it marks the completion of a significant endeavor and leads to the next phase of their lives. Likewise, it is a celebratory time for the institution as well because we are so proud of the Class of 2017.” — Cypress College President Dr. Bob Simpson
Claudia Villasenor, 2017 Outstanding Graduate of the Year
Like many first-generation college students, Claudia Villasenor began her time at Cypress College uncertain with what she wanted to do. Two associate degrees later, the honors student describes Cypress College as “a place that allowed me to find myself and discover the career that I was destined to do.”
Villasenor moved to the United States at age 11, an experience that has shaped her desire to go into education for a profession. She has transferred to California State University, Fullerton where she is working on a bachelor’s degree in child and adolescent development and a Multiple Subject Credential with a bilingual authorization. She plans to teach elementary school.
“I decided to enroll in Cypress College because of the atmosphere of inclusiveness and acceptance that Cypress portrays,” Villasenor said. “My older sister graduated from Cypress College, so she always mentioned the positive atmosphere shat she felt. She mentioned the attentiveness of the faculty and the enthusiasm of the staff.”
At Cypress College, Villasenor participated in the Honors Program, was a member of the Honors Club, participated in events such as Donate a Day of Service, and had her art and writing published in Gender Smash and Sole Image. She has also worked on campus throughout her time at Cypress College as one of the original members of the Student Ambassador team — a role in which she shares her experiences with potential new students.
“Most of these prospective students have the preconceived idea that college education is not something that is within their reach, so my job is to make them think otherwise,” Villasenor said. “I feel accomplished whenever new students come to Cypress College and thank me for helping them during their application process.”
Villasenor earned an associate degree in liberal social arts in social and behavioral science from Cypress College last spring and is completing an associate degree in art this spring.
Swen Nater, 2017 Outstanding Alumnus
If a person never played high school basketball, what are the odds he would win two NCAA championships? What are the odds of him being selected in the first round of the NBA draft and going on to stardom? Impossible, right? Not for Swen Nater. Swen never played high school ball, nor did he ever start a game in college; however, he was selected in the first round of the NBA draft and went on to play 12 years professionally. He not only started, he led the ABA and NBA in rebounding, became an All-Star, and set several records. Swen Nater never paid much attention to the odds. He loved basketball and dreamed of playing the sport at the highest level. That is exactly what he did, thanks to his inexhaustible industriousness and the countless hours he spent in the gym.
Swen enrolled at Cypress College as a math student. By then he was 6’ 9”, but weighed only 185 pounds. While Swen was eating lunch on his first day of school, the assistant basketball coach, Tom Lubin, noticed his height and asked if he was planning on playing basketball. When Swen said, “No,” Coach Lubin asked if he could work with him and Swen agreed. At Cypress, Swen became a Community College All-American his sophomore year and helped lead the team to a state title. After a game in which Cypress College played against the UCLA freshman team at Pauley Pavilion (he scored 25 points and grabbed 25 rebounds), Coach John Wooden recruited Swen to attend UCLA to play as Bill Walton’s back-up. Walton said Swen was the best center he played against in College — which he did every day at practice.
At a post-season All-Star game that included the best college seniors in the country, Swen started because another player was injured during pre-game warm-ups. Suffice it to say he more than held his own, scoring 34 points, grabbing 25 rebounds, and being named Most Valuable Player. Swen was ABA Rookie of the Year, and the following season he led the ABA with 16.4 rebounds per game. He went on to lead the NBA in rebounds and still holds the all-time record for defensive rebounds in one half at 18. He is one of only five members of the “30/30” club — scoring 30 points and getting 30 rebounds in a single game. The others are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kevin Love, Moses Malone, and Robert Parish. Swen still holds the record for most rebounds in one game for the Milwaukee Bucks at 33. He also holds the all-time California Community College single game rebound record at 39.
Swen resides in Issaquah, Washington with his wife, Wendy. He’s a buyer for Costco and a motivational speaker.
Jeanette Vázquez, 2017 Commencement Speaker
Jeanette Vázquez is a passionate educator and proud graduate of Cypress College. She was raised in Fullerton and, as a daughter of immigrants, learned from her parents’ hard work, resilience, determination, and integrity. She has dedicated her personal and professional lives to serving her community.
Vázquez attended Cypress College as a first-generation college student. She was the Cypress College Associated Students president and graduated in 2009 with an associate degree in liberal arts. She transferred to the University of California, Berkeley where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and minor in public policy. Following some time as an AmeriCorps Fellow with Iowa Legal Aid, Vázquez then earned her teaching credential and master’s degree in education from Loyola Marymount University.
Vázquez is now a sixth grade teacher in North Orange County and was elected to the Fullerton School Board in November 2016.
During her time at Cypress College, Vázquez became known as a change agent in her student government roles. As president, she reinvigorated the Associated Students Council, oversaw the first formal legislative advocacy efforts of the governing body, and revamped the organizational structure which facilitated greater effectiveness in meeting students’ needs.
She and a group of peers from Associated Students have remained connected to Cypress College in a variety of capacities — including work to help form the first alumni association through the Cypress College Foundation.
College to Induct 23 Chargers in Athletics Hall of Fame
Cypress College will induct a class of athletes, coaches, and supporters of Chargers Athletics into its Hall of Fame for the first time in nearly a decade on April 1 as part of the College’s 50th Anniversary celebrations.
Athletics will honor the class of 23 new inductees in a Hall of Fame event that includes breakfast, an induction ceremony, and the unveiling of a new Hall of Fame display honoring the memory and contributions of outstanding Cypress athletes, coaches, and athletics supporters.
This is the first-ever induction ceremony for the Hall of Fame, which has already honored 43 former Chargers. Many, like men’s basketball players Swen Nater (’70) and Mark Eaton (’80), and baseball player Trevor Hoffman (’85), went on to successful professional careers.
The current class of inductees includes 23 current and former Chargers, including Cypress College President Dr. Simpson, longtime Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach Tom Lubin, and softball alumnae Alyssa Gutierrez (’07).
Following the Hall of Fame event, Chargers baseball will host its 50th Anniversary game against Golden West, featuring a special pre-game ceremony at 12:40 p.m.
Across campus at the Pond and surrounding buildings, the College’s 50th Anniversary Festival and Reunion will kick off at noon and continue through 4 p.m. An evening performance of the College’s spring production of FOLLIES will end the day’s celebrations.
Register for the 50th Anniversary Car Show!
Show off your tricked out ride at the Cypress College 50th Anniversary Car Show! Enjoy music of the ’60s and share your classic or special interest vehicle with us in this casual shine and show—no judging—with people’s choice awards in several categories, including The Cars of 1966.
When: Saturday, April 1st at 12-4 p.m.
Where: Cypress College Lot 7
Cost: $20, includes t-shirt and $10 event food truck coupon
*Use promo code “1966” and save $10
There’s room for over 150 vehicles, so register now!
Tickets! Get Your FOLLIES Tickets!
Join us for the Cypress College 50th Anniversary production of the Stephen Sondheim musical FOLLIES, based on the book by James Goldman. In the musical, past “Weismann’s Follies” performers reunite in a Broadway theater that’s scheduled for demolition. The focus is on two couples and their past and present lives.
The Cypress College production of FOLLIES is directed by Jim Hormel. The cast and design team feature current and former Cypress students.
Opening night is Friday, March 24 at 8 p.m. Subsequent performances are:
- Saturday, March 25 at 8 p.m.
- Sunday, March 26 at 4 p.m.
- Friday, March 31 at 8 p.m.
- Saturday, April 1 at 8 p.m.
- Sunday, April 2 at 4 p.m.
As part of the College’s 50th Anniversary celebration, there will be a special gala preceding the Saturday, April 1 performance with cocktails to follow.
Tickets for the April 1 show are $30. Tickets for all other shows are $20 for general admission and $15 for seniors, students with student ID, and children under 12.
President Simpson Looks to College's Future in Final Opening Day Address
In a forward-looking address to faculty and staff, Cypress College President Bob Simpson set an energetic tone as he welcomed all back to campus for the spring semester Friday, Jan. 27 on his final Opening Day.
“Rather today than looking in the rearview mirror at what we have achieved,” Dr. Simpson said, “I want to look ahead because there’s so much that’s been happening, so much going on, some very important tasks that are before us.”
The College has a variety of ongoing and upcoming projects to improve its capacity to serve the needs of current and future Cypress students, including the 2017-2020 strategic plan; the College’s first bachelor’s program in funeral sciences; new buildings and renovations through the Measure J construction program; and a thermal energy project.
Buildings in the Measure J project are in various stages of the design phase. Drawings of the new Science, Engineering, and Math building are nearly complete, and the new Veterans Resource Center and Student Activities Center remodel are currently in design-development.
“But we’re excited that we’re going to be breaking ground before too long,” Dr. Simpson added.
The $8.5 million energy project—installation of a thermal storage tank and HVAC chiller on the north side of campus—will provide climate control for those future and current buildings, and aid in the College’s energy efficiency goals.
“All that we will do in the future is dependent upon that energy that will be provided,” Dr. Simpson said.
The College is also preparing for accreditation renewal this year by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.
Phil Dykstra, the College’s Director of Institutional Research and Planning, and Liana Koeppel, the self evaluation chair, are currently processing feedback to finalize the first draft of the self evaluation report for submission to the District Board of Trustees Feb. 14. There will be a second round of feedback during the spring, with final Board approval in April. The report is due to ACCJC July 15.
In a change from the last round of accreditation, the accrediting team will also conduct a pre-visit to campus sometime this semester, in addition to the usual site visit in the fall on Oct. 9-12.
Another major project underway this semester is the College’s website redesign, headed by Cypress’ Director of Campus Communications Marc Posner, and web content specialist Cari Jorgensen. The current website was designed a decade ago.
The redesign aims to update and modernize the look and feel of the Cypress College website while also improving navigation and user-friendliness. It will be created on WordPress, an easy-to-use content management system expected to facilitate continuity across the website’s many sections and simpler editing by individual users.
Dr. Simpson also recognized a recent honor for the College and expressed his appreciation for the City of Cypress’ support. During the city’s State of the City Luncheon this past January, Mayor Paulo Morales presented Cypress College with an honorary “Key to the City” in recognition of the College’s 50th Anniversary.
“We are so fortunate at the College to have an incredible relationship with the City of Cypress,” Dr. Simpson said.
“One of the reasons we are able to do as much as we are able to do to support our students is because of that extraordinary support that we receive from the community,” he continued, “and at the top of the list of supporters is the City of Cypress. We are so gratified to have that kind of relationship.”
The culmination of the College’s 50th anniversary celebration is a reunion and community festival on April 1 at the pond. Planned by the Cypress College Foundation, the festival will include food trucks and a kid zone, College presentations and displays, discussion panels, a classic car show, and even a duck pond race—a hallowed College tradition returned for one day only.
Opening Day included music by the Mighty Cypress College Art Players, featuring faculty members Gary Gopar, Marcus McMillan, and Terra Schwartzwald. They performed several jazz pieces throughout the program, accompanied by dance routines from Fine Arts students under the direction of Maha Afra.
Though the start of the semester is always a happy occasion, for many this semester was bittersweet with President Simpson’s impending retirement on June 30.
Near the end of the program, Dr. Simpson also picked up a guitar and pleased the crowd with a touching rendition of Neil Young’s ’71 classic, “Old Man,” backed by the Art Players.
“The last ten years have been the most significant and productive of my professional life,” Dr. Simpson said in his closing remarks, “and if I was left at the end with only my time at Cypress College, I would still consider that life to have been full and rich and rewarding.
“I want to thank you for allowing me the privilege of serving the last five years as the president of this amazing place,” he continued. “It has been an extraordinary ride, and I don’t have the words to thank you, but, Chargers, thank you all.”
College's 50th Anniversary Recognized with "Key to the City" of Cypress
At the Cypress State of the City Luncheon on Wednesday, January 19, Mayor Paulo Morales (pictured above) presented Cypress College with an honorary “Key to the City” in recognition of the College’s 50th anniversary. Foam “#1” fingers with the name of the city and Cypress College, respectively, were also given out at the event. Officials from the College present at the State of the City included Executive Vice President Dr. Santanu Bandyopadhay, who received the recognition on behalf of the College, and Foundation & Community Relations Executive Director Raul Alvarez. Also attending on behalf of Cypress College were North Orange County Community College District Trustees Steve Blount and Barbara Dunsheath, Foundation Board Members David Shawver and Phil Wendel, and Cypress College Communications Director Marc Posner.
“We are humbled by the unexpected honor and presentation by Mayor Morales,” Posner said. “Our partnership with the City of Cypress has never been stronger thanks to the Mayor, City Council, and City Manager Peter Grant, as well as the executive team here at the College.”
Cypress College will be celebrating our 50th Anniversary with a Festival and Reunion on Saturday, April 1, 2017. To register for the event and receive further information on 50th Anniversary activities, please click here.