After last year’s controversial and prolonged commencement speaker search, the Board of Trustees quickly and unanimously voted Wednesday to approve Chad Crittenden, a cancer survivor, triathlete and amputee, as this year’s speaker.
“The committee was moved by this and felt that he would in fact be an excellent commencement speaker for our 2014-2015 graduates,” said Interim President Robert Miller, who recommended Crittenden.
Crittenden, 46, is best known as one of the competitors’ on season nine of the CBS show “Survivor.” Appearing on the show was a dream of Crittenden’s. He was the ninth contestant voted off, and the second member of the jury after surviving 27 days.
Even though Crittenden did not make it to the end of the show as the last survivor, he certainly has overcome a number of life’s obstacles.
In 2002, Crittenden was diagnosed with Synovial Sarcoma, a rare and deadly form of cancer, which forced him to amputate his leg just below the knee. Nine months after his surgery, Crittenden successfully completed a triathlon and in 2009 completed the New York City marathon.
In an effort to raise money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), which provides opportunities and support to people with physical challenges so they can pursue an active lifestyle through physical fitness and competitive athletics, Crittenden reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2012 and raised $140,000.
Crittenden spent a greater part of his young adulthood teaching the youth. He started his career working summer day-care jobs, which led him to working for an after-school tutoring program. That ultimately led him to receive an internship to teach a bilingual second grade class in San Jose. After two years, he accepted a contract to teach in San Salvador, El Salvador.
“I think that’s an exemplary person to come and inspire our student body,” said Board of Trustees President Berlinda Brown.
Last year’s commencement scandal, when the board invited, disinvited and then re-invited Dustin Lance Black, was not only due to inappropriate photos surfacing of Black but was also complicated by confusion about the selection process. This year’s process seemed to have a different outcome, not only because Crittenden has an inspirational story to tell but also because board members were not able to suggest their own recommendations.
The process for selecting a commencement speaker is the sole responsibility of the commencement speaker committee, which compiles a list of nominees for the board to approve. During this early process, procedure AP5950 states that the board shall solicit suggestions from all members of the campus community and recommend candidates.
If the board approves, the committee must then prioritize the list and work to present the board with their recommendation. The board then votes to approve or reject the final candidate that was presented.
Associated Students President and Commencement Speaker Committee member Jordyn Orozco was outspoken about the lengthy process that took place last year and is delighted that this year had a different result.
“It was a pretty easy process this year,” said Orozco. “I think we followed it to a ‘T’ and I think the decision was made with perfect timing because commencement is in a month and a half. But I’m really excited about it – he is a really good candidate.”