More than 50 years after earning his first degree from Santa Clara University, former Secretary of State Leon Panetta was honored by his alma mater Saturday.
Panetta and his wife Sylvia both received an honorary Doctorate of Public Service during the university’s commencement ceremony that awarded more than 1,000 students their degrees as well.
Panetta, who earned both his Bachelor's Degree and Law Degree from the university, encouraged students to become engaged in government during his commencement speech. He also encouraged graduates to hold elected officials accountable.
“Over fifty years ago, I sat where you're at, the son of Italian immigrants, the first in my family along with my brother to get a college education. I had no idea, no idea that I could impact the policy of this country or on people's lives. But I did, and so can you,” Panetta said.
Panetta met his wife on campus -- and said this summer, they'll celebrate 51 years of marriage.
“She is my love, my partner and my friend," Panetta said of his wife.
He joked that "mixers" were his generation's version of "computer dating."
Panetta taught a political science course at SCU and served on SCU’s Board of Trustees from 1988 to 2009.
“I am very proud of the Santa Clara University of today,” said Panetta. “You’re a 21st century campus, men and women reflecting the great diversity of our society, open to all faiths and beliefs, a broad curriculum that reflects our times and a commitment to your creed of building citizens who are leaders of competence, conscience and compassion.”