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2024 – Inspiring Industry Leaders to Address the Class of 2024

As Director of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan brings a distinguished career in science, technology, engineering and education to an agency tasked with advancing STEM education and all fields of scientific discovery. 

Dr. Panchanathan will share his wisdom and advice running this $9 billion federal agency with the Class of 2024 as this year’s undergraduate speaker at Commencement, Sunday, June 9 at Climate Pledge Arena. 

Prior to becoming director of NSF, Panchanathan served on the National Science Board for six years and on several high-level research and innovation organizations. A member of the National Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association for Computing Machinery and other prestigious science and engineering organizations, Dr. Panchanathan’s scientific contributions have advanced the areas of human-centered multimedia computing and computing technologies. 

During his three-plus decades in higher education, Dr. Panchanathan served on the faculty at the University of Ottawa and Arizona State University (ASU), where he held a number of leadership posts, including executive vice president of the ASU Knowledge Enterprise, as well as chief research and innovation officer.

At this year’s graduate ceremony, the man who helped make the Seattle Sounders FC and Seattle Kraken sports teams a reality in Seattle will deliver remarks. 

Speaker Tod Leiweke is currently the CEO for the Kraken and is largely credited as the architect for building a top-notch NHL expansion team. And the place where he will be speaking—Climate Pledge Arena—also has his imprint as he was instrumental in its redevelopment.  

Prior to being appointed CEO in April 2018, Leiweke served as the NFL’s Chief Operating Officer for three years where he oversaw day-to-day operations of the league. As CEO of the Seattle Seahawks from 2002 to 2010, he led the team to its first Super Bowl appearance in 2006 and helped lay the groundwork for a period of extraordinary success, including the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory in 2014.

In addition to their roles as keynote speakers, Dr. Panchanathan and Leiweke will be joined by Virginia Cross in receiving Honorary Doctorates at the ceremonies. 

Born into poverty on the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation in 1939, Cross is a true trailblazer. At an early age she learned the importance of education in moving herself and her people forward. When she earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Washington she would become one of her tribe’s first college graduates. In the 1960s, Cross would become Muckleshoot’s first Head Start Director before serving as the first Indian Education Coordinator for the Auburn School District. 

Without question her career in tribal government is unparallelled. Cross is in her 40th year as an elected member of the nine-member Muckleshoot Tribal Council, serving as Tribal Chairman for a record 19 of those years. 

As Coast Salish people throughout the greater Pacific Northwest say, “We raise our hands to you, Virginia Cross.”



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