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Celebrating Black Excellence

February 1, 2024


To the campus community:


In February the nation formally recognizes Black History Month, during which we look both backward — at the historic and often overlooked contributions of the African-American community to our country — and forward, to better days yet to come.


UC Merced’s rise owes a great deal to Black leaders. These include Dr. Michael Drake, who today serves as the first African American president of the University of California, and who, as chancellor of UC Irvine, was instrumental in helping UC Merced find its feet and its way as a member of its initial conceptualization team. They include Professor Charles Ogletree, the Merced native, Harvard professor and civil rights attorney, who presided over UC Merced’s opening ceremony in 2005 and charged the new university to “see diversity and excellence as complimentary, not in conflict.”


And of course, they include then-First Lady Michelle Obama, who delivered the very first commencement address to UC Merced undergraduates who had “inspired” her by their invitation and who she predicted would go on to change the world.


Today at UC Merced, our Black faculty continue to conduct world-changing research while mentoring our students. Black staff make UC Merced a warm and welcome community, and Black students contribute every day to the intellectual and cultural richness of campus.


I commend to your attention not only the specific stories that will be told during Black History Month on our website but the entire and compelling history of African American communities across the Central Valley, California and our country.




Juan Sánchez Muñoz


Remarks and Addresses