Skip to main content

April 2013

Leon Panetta, Former U.S. Defense Secretary and CIA Director, to Speak at Santa Clara University Commencement June 15

Leon and Sylvia Panetta, founders of the Panetta Institute for Public Policy in Monterey, Calif. will be honored at Santa Clara University’s 162nd commencement ceremony on June 15, at which the former Secretary of Defense will give the commencement address.

Sylvia Panetta, co-founder of the Panetta Institute for Public Policy, will also receive an honorary degree.

SANTA CLARA, Calif., April 11, 2013 — Leon and Sylvia Panetta, founders of the Panetta Institute for Public Policy in Monterey, Calif. will be honored at Santa Clara University’s 162nd commencement ceremony on June 15, 2013.

Leon Panetta, the former U.S. Secretary of Defense and a 1960 magna cum laude political science major and 1963 graduate of Santa Clara University’s School of Law, will address the University’s graduating seniors and their family and friends at the event to be held at 8:30 a.m. at Buck Shaw Stadium. Sylvia Panetta, co-director of the Panetta Institute, will receive an honorary degree as well.

Panetta’s affiliation with Santa Clara University is a close and longstanding one. In addition to his two SCU degrees, he was a member of the University’s ROTC program, taught a political science course in the College of Arts and Sciences for years, and served on SCU’s Board of Trustees from 1988 to 2009.

“Sylvia and I are honored to be recognized by Santa Clara University. Santa Clara has a special place in our hearts. It’s where we first met; it is where I learned many of the core values that have guided me from the earliest days of my career,” said Panetta.

Panetta’s career began after law school, when he joined the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant, serving in military intelligence. After two years, he became a legislative aide to California’s moderate Republican Sen. Thomas Kuchel, who helped craft the 1964 Civil Rights Act; and later was an assistant to President Nixon’s Health, Education, and Welfare Secretary Robert H. Finch. He went on to become director of the Office for Civil Rights in 1970, at a time of ongoing civil unrest in the nation.

Panetta was elected as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976, and served eight terms—including chairing the budget committee and key sub-committees—before being tapped by President Bill Clinton to direct the U.S. Office of Management and Budget in 1993. Clinton later asked him to be his chief of staff in the White House. 

Over the course of his career, Panetta is credited with enforcing civil rights laws over the objections of President Nixon and southern lawmakers; helping balance and bring to surplus the federal budgets in 1993 and 1994; writing legislation securing Medicare and Medicaid coverage for hospice care for the terminally ill; and spearheading measures to protect the California coast. As CIA director, he was in charge of the operation that brought the mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Osama Bin Laden, to justice.

In 1997 he and his wife Sylvia established the Panetta Institute for Public Policy, based at California State University, Monterey Bay. The institute is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit study center seeking to attract thoughtful men and women to lives of public service and prepare them for the policy challenges of the future.

“We are delighted to welcome Leon Panetta back to the campus that launched him on his stellar career to the top echelons of public service,” said Michael Engh, S.J., president of Santa Clara University. “We are grateful to Leon and Sylvia for creating the Congressional Internship Program that has included Santa Clara students, where they learn firsthand what it means to put your life in service to others through work in the U.S. Congress.”

The Panettas will be introduced at the commencement ceremonies by Victor Republicano, SCU graduating senior and 2012 Panetta Congressional Intern. Honorary degrees will be awarded to Leon and Sylvia Panetta; Robert Mathewson, S.J.; James Houghton '81; and Stephen '60 and Patricia Schott. 


About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its more than 8,800 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, theology, and engineering, plus master’s and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see

Media Contact
Deepa Arora | SCU Communications Director | | 408-554-5125


commencement speaker,commencement,Leon Panetta,Sylvia Panetta