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April 2017

Leon Panetta

Leon Panetta

Leon Panetta to Address Law Graduates May 20

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will speak at Santa Clara University School of Law commencement May 20.

Double Bronco and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will speak at the School of Law commencement.

SANTA CLARA, Calif., April 3, 2017 — Leon Panetta, who served as United States Secretary of Defense, CIA director and an eight-term member of Congress during his 50-year career, will be the featured speaker at Santa Clara University School of Law’s commencement ceremony.

Panetta will address the class of 2017 at Santa Clara Law’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 20 at 9:30 a.m. in the Mission Gardens.

“Our students have a tremendous role model in our distinguished alumnus, Leon Panetta, and his decades of ethical leadership and public service,” said Santa Clara University School of Law Dean Lisa Kloppenberg. "His career exemplifies our University’s Jesuit ethos of putting one’s talents to work in service to others. At every turn he has endeavored to create a more just, humane, and sustainable world.”

Panetta is currently chairman of the Panetta Institute for Public Policy, 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. It includes a Congressional Internship program for students, including Santa Clara University students, as well as a lecture series, policy research and other youth civic-engagement opportunities.

“As an alumnus of Santa Clara University and the School of Law, I am honored to speak to the class of 2017 at their commencement ceremony,” said Panetta. “I hope to share with them the same inspiration I received from Santa Clara to a life of public service to our democracy.”

Panetta’s affiliation with Santa Clara University is a close and longstanding one.

He is a “double Bronco” with a 1960 magna cum laude political science degree and a 1963 law degree from Santa Clara University. He also 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.

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 Richard 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. 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.

He served as U.S. Secretary of Defense from 2011 to 2013, director of the CIA from 2009 to 2011, director of the Office and Management and Budget from 1993 to 1994, Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton from 1994 to 1997 and member of the House of Representatives from 1977 to 1993.

About Santa Clara University School of Law
Santa Clara University School of Law, one of the nation’s most diverse law schools, is dedicated to educating lawyers who lead with a commitment to excellence, ethics, and social justice. Santa Clara Law offers students an academically rigorous program including certificates in high tech law, international law, public interest and social justice law, and privacy law, as well as numerous graduate and joint degree options. Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Santa Clara Law is nationally distinguished for its faculty engagement, preparation for practice, and top-ranked programs in intellectual property. For more information, see

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Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Relations | | 408-554-5121

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