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Former UCLA basketball player Anita Ortega to give commencement address

Anita Ortega helped lead UCLA women's basketball to its first national championship in 1978. She was inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame in 2002. (ASUCLA)

This post was updated April 4 at 7:42 p.m.

Anita Ortega, a former UCLA women’s basketball player, will deliver the UCLA College commencement address in June, UCLA officials announced Tuesday.

Ortega, who was also the first African-American woman to serve as a Los Angeles Police Department area captain, will speak in the UCLA College of Letters and Science commencement ceremonies in Pauley Pavilion on June 16.

Patricia Turner, senior dean of the UCLA College and vice provost of undergraduate education, said in a statement she thinks Ortega’s achievements are a testament to her perseverance and dedication to public service.

“Our new graduates are bound to be inspired and energized by her words,” Turner added.

Ortega helped lead the UCLA women’s basketball team to its first national championship in 1978, after which she left school to play in the Women’s Professional Basketball League. She returned to UCLA to complete her bachelor’s degree in 1982.

In 1984, Ortega joined the LAPD and attained the rank of area captain in 2002. She retired from the LAPD in July 2016.

Some students said they are excited to hear about Ortega’s experiences as a UCLA alumna and hope she can share life lessons with them.

Lindsay Kamikawa, a fourth-year English student, said she thinks Ortega is a great choice for commencement speaker because of her background.

“She’s a woman and she’s been a success in her field,” Kamikawa said. “Commencement speakers should speak of things that are timely. She’s a unique and original person, and she went to UCLA so she can speak to the experience of the students here.”

Aaron Gonzales, a fourth-year mathematics of computation student, said he thinks Ortega’s experiences are more relatable than some of UCLA’s past commencement speakers.

“We shouldn’t expect commencement speakers to be billionaires,” Gonzales said. “They should be people contributing to society. (Ortega) has broken through barriers, which is what we aim to do here.”

Yesenia Rodriguez, a third-year gender studies and sociology student, said she thinks Ortega’s address is a chance to feature an accomplished individual from a typically underrepresented campus group.

“I would like to hear from a commencement speaker that it’s possible for underrepresented students to get jobs after graduation,” Rodriguez added. “I also think commencement speakers should talk about diversity in the career field and how you can cross into other sectors. It’s important to hear their specific journey instead of a general inspirational speech because students always hear that.”

Contributing reports from Isabella Welch, Daily Bruin contributor.

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