Two renowned Cal State LA alumni receive honorary doctorates

Kent Twitchell

Kent Twitchell and Ofelia Esparza are recognized for their many contributions

Renowned artists and Cal State LA alumni Ofelia Esparza and Kent Twitchell received honorary doctorates and delivered keynote addresses in separate graduation ceremonies on Saturday during the final day of the 69th Commencement.

Esparza, who graduated in 1974 with a Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies, is also an educator whose art and classroom leadership helped instill cultural pride in East Los Angeles youth during the Chicano Civil Rights Movement. 

Esparza taught at City Terrace Elementary School, just a short distance from the University in East Los Angeles, where she was raised. She told students at the Charter College of Education ceremony that teachers are entrusted with one of society’s most important responsibilities.

 “The future of any society,” she said, “lies in the education of the young.”

Esparza was nominated for the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by California State University Trustee Hugo Morales, who attended the ceremony and read the citation that accompanies the degree. Also attending the ceremony was CSU Trustee Steven Stepanek.Ofelia Esparza

Esparza's artistic contributions have been featured through her work as a painter, printmaker and altar maker.  She has been an art instructor, exhibiting artist, and volunteer at the historic Self Help Graphics & Art and at the Plaza de la Raza Cultural Center for Arts and Education.

Her works have been exhibited locally, nationally, and internationally, showing at The Latino Museum of History, Art and Culture, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Mexican Museum San Francisco, Mexican Fine Art Museum of Chicago, Centro Cultural de Tijuana Mexico, and Glasgow Print Studio in Scotland.

On Saturday afternoon, Twitchell received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts during the College of Arts and Letters ceremony.

Twitchell, who graduated from Cal State LA in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts in art, has created murals that have beautified Los Angeles and cities across the nation. His art towers from buildings, stares out from freeway walls, and occupies and transforms public spaces. Over a long career, he has created more than 100 portraits within 30 grand scale murals.

Twitchell’s work has been collected by the Smithsonian, the Chicago Art Institute, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

A master of portraiture in its purest form, Twitchell’s subjects range from the well-known to the unknown.  He has created murals of Steve McQueen, Michael Jackson, Ed Ruscha, Julius Erving—and the iconic bride and groom who for decades have resided on the side of what was once a bridal shop in downtown Los Angeles. 

Twitchell’s citation was read by Trustee Stepanek.

In his Commencement address, Twitchell recalled his days at Cal State LA, where he was exposed to outstanding professors and challenged by his coursework.

“Always be proud of Cal State LA,” he told the students. “I’ve always been so proud that I went here.”

He noted that earning a diploma requires discipline and focus, traits that will enable future success. “You have done what it takes to finish something,” Twitchell said.

“This is just the beginning,” he told the students. “You will appreciate more and more your time here, as I have.”

Photo: Top: Cal State LA alumnus Kent Twitchell. Right: Alumna Ofelia Esparza and CSU Trustee Hugo Morales. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA).

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Cal State LA is a university dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 27,000 students and 240,000 distinguished alumni, who are as diverse as the city we serve. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, Cal State LA has long been recognized as an engine of economic and social mobility. Led by an award-winning faculty, the University offers nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and the humanities.

Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex, TV, Film and Media Center and the Center for Engagement, Service, and the Public Good. For more information, visit