graduating students in Ernie Chapman Stadium

Class of 2024 Prepares for Graduation, Honorary Degree Recipients Announced Chapman will honor President Emeritus Jim Doti for 50 years of service to the university, among other long-time university friends and community leaders.

Celebrations for Chapman University’s Class of 2024 will take place over the weekend of May 17 to 19. Festivities will include fireworks and a toast from the president of the university, Daniele C. Struppa. 

The keynote address during Friday’s University Commencement ceremony will be delivered by Bill Hader, award-winning actor, writer, director and creator of the award-winning HBO show, “Barry.”

Hader will receive one of five honorary degrees being awarded this year to individuals who have distinguished themselves in their careers, in their service to the university and through their philanthropic efforts. President Emeritus Jim Doti will also be recognized for his 50-year career at Chapman University. 

Bill HarderBill Hader
Doctor of Arts, honoris causa (D.Art)

Hader has made the transition from being a master of stand-out characters and impressions on “Saturday Night Live” to becoming a true multi-hyphenate by creating, directing, writing, producing and starring as a burned-out assassin trying to break into Hollywood as an actor in HBO’s award-winning and critically lauded dark comedy, “Barry.”

“Barry” concluded its fourth and final season in May 2023 and Hader directed all eight episodes. The first three seasons of “Barry” received a total of 44 Emmy nominations and nine Emmys including two wins for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Hader has also garnered three Directors Guild of America awards for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Comedy Series, three Writers Guild Awards and has been nominated three times for Producers Guild Awards and three times for Screen Actors Guild Awards. “Barry” has also received an AFI Award and a Peabody Award as well.

The final season of the series garnered the following number of nominations: 11 Emmy, two Golden Globes, three SAG Awards, Directors Guild, Producers Guild and three Critics’ Choice.

Hader is also co-creator of IFC’s “Documentary Now!” which was named one of the best TV shows of 2015 by The New York Times and is now in its fourth season. Hader spent eight seasons on “Saturday Night Live” and garnered four Emmy Award nominations for his work on the series.

The Tulsa, Oklahoma, native has starred in such films as “Trainwreck,” “Superbad,” “Pineapple Express” and “Tropic Thunder.” He segued to show his versatility with a dramatic role in 2014’s critically acclaimed feature film “The Skeleton Twins” opposite his former SNL castmate, Kristen Wiig. He most recently starred in “It Chapter Two,” the sequel to the 2017 hit “It,” based on the best-selling Stephen King novel.

Chapman President Emeritus Jim Doti at Economic Forecast
James Doti’s Economic Forecast has continued to grow in scope and is widely recognized for its statistical accuracy.

James L. Doti
Doctor of the University, honoris causa (D.Univ.)

James L. Doti earned his BS degree in economics from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and his MA and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago. He currently holds the Rick Muth Family Chair in Economics.

He was appointed president of Chapman University in 1991 and served for 25 years. During that time, Chapman University’s overall rank in U.S. News & World Report increased from 61 in 1991 to seven in 2016. Its rank in student selectivity increased from 92 in 1991 to three in 2016. During the 1991 to 2016 period, Chapman advanced more rapidly in the rankings than any other school in higher education. In September 2016, Doti returned to the Chapman faculty. 

In Doti’s honor, Ambassador Ron Spogli established the new Doti-Spogli Chair in Free Enterprise at the Argyros College of Business and Economics, which will introduce students to fundamental texts and explore the impact of free enterprise.

Before serving as president of the university, Doti founded the A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research. The Center’s inaugural Orange County Forecast, presented in December 1978, was the first economic forecast in the U.S. to be based on an urban econometric model.  

The Economic Forecast has continued to be a main focus of the Anderson Center’s work, growing in scope and widely recognized for its statistical accuracy. Over the 2004 through 2021 period, Chapman’s real GDP forecasts were more accurate than the forecasts issued by all 30 agencies participating in the Blue Chip Economic Indicators surveys. The Chapman forecast model also outperformed the highly regarded Blue Chip Consensus forecast.

Doti’s articles have appeared in academic journals as well as periodicals such as The Wall Street Journal and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He is also the author of Econometric Analysis with EViews and Statistical Analysis with Excel and co-editor of a collection of readings in free enterprise that received the Templeton Honor Award for Scholarly Excellence.  

Doti is a recipient of the Horatio Alger Award and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.  

He has completed 60 full marathons, including ten runnings of the famed Boston Marathon. He climbed five of the world’s famed Seven Summits. He is also an avid reader and writer. He has written three children’s books, the third of which, “I Love You This Much, Nonna,” has been named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2018.

Longtime Chapman supporters Donald and Deedee Sodaro
Donald and Deedee Sodaro have helped propel Chapman forward with unprecedented growth.

Donald E. Sodaro
Doctor of the University, honoris causa (D.Univ.)

Donald E. Sodaro is Chairman of the Board and CEO of Hanford Hotels, Inc. He leads the company with more than 50 years of experience in the hospitality industry. 

In 1972, Sodaro founded Sixpence Inns of America, a chain of limited-service hotel properties across six states. In 1989 the highly successful chain was sold to Motel 6, at which time he joined the Board of Directors and served on the Audit and Site Acquisition Committee until 1991.

In 1995, he returned to the hospitality business and founded Hanford Hotels, Inc. with his longtime business partner William Caine Jr. Sodaro’s keen eye for business opportunities places him among the most successful business leaders in the hotel industry. 

Recently, Sodaro merged his business savvy with his Italian heritage. In 1998, he purchased a vineyard in Napa Valley and began developing super-premium cabernets. To date, the Sodaro Estate Winery has won eight medals, including a gold medal for its first wine produced, a 2003 cabernet sauvignon. In February 2009, its flagship wine, the Sodaro Estate Blend, won a double-gold at the prestigious San Francisco Chronicle Wine Tasting Competition, where his Felicity Cabernet Sauvignon was also awarded Best of Class. 

Sodaro is a well-respected businessman and leader in the community. In 1988, he was elected to the Board of Trustees of Chapman University and has since served on numerous board committees, including University Advancement, Budget and Finance, Real Estate, Student Life and Trusteeship and Bylaws.  From 2002-2012, Sodaro served as Chairman of the Board. Currently, he chairs the Trusteeship and Bylaws Committee.

Sodaro’s efforts have helped propel Chapman forward with unprecedented growth. The impact of his contributions is evident not only in the expansion and success of Chapman University but also in the numerous spaces on campus bearing the Sodaro name. These include the Sodaro Promenade, Sodaro-Caine Information Technology Learning Center, Donald and Felicity Sodaro Arch, Sodaro-Pankey Undergraduate School of Media Arts, Sodaro-Pankey Digital Arts Center, Donald E. and Deedee Sodaro Box Suite, Pralle-Sodaro Hall, Sodaro Family Classroom and the Donald E. and Felicity Sodaro South Wing of the Hilbert Museum.

Sodaro’s involvement in other community organizations includes The Lincoln Club, The World Affairs Council of Orange County, Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts and the Santa Ana Country Club.

Sodaro holds a BA from the University of Illinois and is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). He was honorably discharged from the United States Army, is an amateur photographer and enjoys collecting vintage automobiles. Sodaro resides primarily in Newport Beach, Calif. with his wife Felicity (Deedee). Together they have two adult daughters whose families reside in Orange County.

Michael Belay during recent visit to kindergarten he helped establish.
Michael Belay during a visit to a kindergarten he helped establish.

Michael B. Belay
Doctor of the University, honoris causa (D.Univ.)

Michael B. Belay has served the Chapman community as a full-time employee in Public Safety since 2003.  Before that, he worked as a contract employee at the law school for ten years providing security. In that time he has touched the lives of countless students and earned the respect of faculty and staff throughout the university. 

Belay was born and raised in Abi Adi, a small village in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia. At age 13, Belay began a three-month journey through the jungle, only during nightfall, to Sudan. Eventually, he received his passport to America in 1981 and became a U.S. citizen in 1985.

In 2000, Belay returned to Tembien, Ethiopia, to find the devastation of war, poverty, hunger, polluted water, minimal health support and school children learning outside in the dirt. Inspired to action, Belay built a mud school and promised to return.

By 2001, Belay created the U.S. nonprofit 501(c)(3) Hands Across the Planet to Poor Youth (H.A.P.P.Y.). His boundless endeavors have helped bring education, health care and clean drinking water to children and families in the regions of his home village in Ethiopia. Chapman has honored Belay’s efforts with the Albert Schweitzer Award of Excellence in 2007 and the Presidential Medal for Distinguished Contributions to Humanity in 2016.

Scott Loren Sanders
Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LL.D.)

Scott Loren Sanders has been an attorney with the Orange County Public Defender’s Office for 31 years, handling cases ranging from misdemeanors to death penalty cases. His efforts in exposing a covert system targeting accused persons in high-priority cases for unconstitutional interrogation have had a lasting impact on the criminal justice system in Orange County.

In People v. Scott Dekraai, Sanders wrote a 505-page motion that detailed for the first time a hidden jailhouse informant program that allegedly operated in violation of defendants’ criminal constitutional rights. Litigation regarding the misuse of informants spanned three years and culminated in an order recusing the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and a ruling that outrageous governmental conduct required striking the death penalty as a potential punishment. In 2022, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced findings consistent with Sanders’ allegation. The DOJ concluded that the district attorney’s office and sheriff’s department had systematically violated the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of inmates through the misuse of informants and the concealment of related evidence.  

Sanders has been recognized with honors such as the California Public Defenders Association Attorney of the Year, the Skip Glenn Award for Excellence in Advocacy and the Johnnie Cochran Award for Relentless Pursuit of Justice.

Commencement Weekend Events

daniele struppa at commencement podiumComplete details about the weekend events can be found at, but here are a few highlights that graduates, their families and friends can plan for. 

Interfaith Baccalaureate Service
Thursday, May 16, 7 p.m.
Wallace All Faiths Chapel

Baccalaureate is a traditional spiritual service open to those of all faiths. The Monks of Drepung Loseling Monastery in India will deconstruct the Mandala they have created throughout the week, providing a lesson on the Buddhist notion of impermanence. The celebration will also feature music and student speakers. The event is free, but registration is required.

University Commencement Ceremony and President’s Toast
Friday, May 17, 7 p.m.
Wilson Field

The University Commencement Ceremony is the signature event of Commencement weekend and is open to all graduates and their guests. This year’s keynote address will be delivered by creator, actor, writer and director Bill Hader, who will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Arts during the ceremony. Tickets are free, but limited seating is available and registration is required in advance. 

After the ceremony, graduates and guests are invited to join President Struppa at the Aitken Arts Plaza, outside the Musco Center, as he raises a glass in the graduates’ honor. 

School and College Degree Ceremonies
Friday, May 17-19, various times
Wilson Field

In honor of all they’ve worked for, graduates will cross the stage in caps and gowns as they collect their diplomas. Degree ceremonies are free to attend but tickets are required. Reserve your seats.

See the complete schedule and find livestream links for all school and college ceremonies

Staci Dumoski

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