Mariano-Florentino “Tino” Cuéllar, associate justice of the Supreme Court of California and a Stanford alumnus, will be the 2017 Commencement speaker at Stanford University.

Stanford’s 126th Commencement Weekend, which is scheduled for June 16-18, will also feature a Baccalaureate address by Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar

Cuéllar was nominated by California Gov. Jerry Brown in July 2014 to the state’s Supreme Court and was unanimously confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. He was retained by the voters of California for a full term and was sworn in on Jan. 5, 2015.


Justice Mariano-Florentino “Tino” Cuellar (Image credit: Rod Searcey)

Cuellar, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Mexico, graduated from Calexico High School, in California’s Imperial County on the border with Mexico. He earned a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard in 1993, a JD from Yale in 1997 and a PhDin political science from Stanford in 2000.

“Justice Cuéllar is the embodiment of the American success story,” said Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne. “Born in Mexico, a naturalized U.S. citizen, Tino has chosen to give back to this country. Over his career, he has been equally devoted to higher education and public service. We hope that our graduates will be inspired by his life and sense of purpose, and how he has used his scholarly achievements to improve the lives of others.”

A member of the Stanford faculty from 2001 to 2015, Cuéllar was the Stanley Morrison Professor of Law. In 2013, he was appointed director of Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, where he supervised 12 research centers and programs. As director, he expanded Stanford’s role in nuclear security research and policy and launched university-wide initiatives on global poverty and on cybersecurity. Before that, he served as co-director of the Stanford Center for International Security and Cooperation and director of the Honors Program in International Security.

In addition to his achievements in academia, Cuéllar has held positions in the Obama and Clinton administrations. In 2008 and early 2009, he co-chaired the presidential transition team on immigration, borders and refugees. While on leave from Stanford in 2009 and 2010, Cuéllar worked at the White House as special assistant to the president for justice and regulatory policy. He negotiated provisions in food safety, tobacco and crack-powder cocaine sentencing reform legislation. He set up the President’s Equal Pay Task Force, worked on the bipartisan repeal of the military’s “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy and led efforts to support community-based crime prevention and immigrant integration. Between 2010 and 2015, he was a presidential appointee to the governing council of the U.S. Administrative Conference, an agency designed to improve fairness and efficiency in federal administrative procedures.  He co-chaired the U.S. Department of Education’s National Equity and Excellence Commission from 2011 to 2013.

From 1997 to 1999, Cuéllar was senior adviser to the undersecretary for enforcement in the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he provided assistance on the department’s efforts to combat money laundering and financial crimes.

“His dedication to truth-seeking is inspiring, and his willingness to pursue unexpected career paths in the interest of self-growth is aspirational,” said Stanford senior class presidents Anna Wang, Teo Camacho, Julia Olson and Eddy Rosales Chavez. “Tino’s perspective, cultivated by his background and journey in attaining the American dream, will be an invaluable source of guidance as we embark on the next stage of our lives.”

Cuéllar currently serves as chair of the board of directors of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. He also chairs the California judiciary’s Implementation Task Force on Language Access, which is working to improve court access for California’s millions of limited English speakers. Cuéllar is also on the boards of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the American Law Institute and the American Bar Foundation, and is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He and his wife, Judge Lucy Koh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, have two children.

Marian Wright Edelman

Marian Wright Edelman, renowned activist and advocate for the disadvantaged, will give the Baccalaureate address.

Marian Wright Edelman

Marian Wright Edelman (Image credit: Courtesy Children's Defense Fund)

“We are delighted to welcome Marian Wright Edelman as the 2017 Baccalaureate speaker,” said Jane Shaw, Stanford dean for religious life. “Beginning with her work in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, her founding of the Children’s Defense Fund in 1973, and her ongoing work to reform government policies, she has been and remains a powerful voice for women, children and families, especially the most disadvantaged in society. We believe her example of activism and compassion will resonate with our graduates and the Stanford community, and we look forward to welcoming her to campus.”

Edelman was born in South Carolina. The youngest of five children, her father was a Baptist minister who taught his children the importance of education and service to others. A graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, she began her career in the mid-1960s when, as the first African American woman admitted to the Mississippi bar, she directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in Jackson, Mississippi.

In 1968, she moved to Washington, D.C., to work as counsel for the Poor People’s Campaign organized by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Edelman subsequently founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm and the parent body of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), which she founded in 1973. Under her leadership, the CDF has worked to ensure a level playing field for all of America’s children.

“Marian truly has a lot of wisdom and experience to offer our class,” said the class presidents. “She especially embodies one of Stanford’s founding principles: using one’s own personal success to ‘promote the public welfare by exercising an influence in behalf of humanity and civilization.’ Her activism throughout her life is a source of inspiration for continued civic engagement for our class. We celebrate her commitment to diversity and welcome her distinct perspective to campus.”

As part of the work of the CDF, Edelman has advocated for greater funding for women’s health, child care and education. She has received more than 100 honorary degrees and many awards, including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship and the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the nation’s highest civilian award.

Stanford’s 126th Commencement and Baccalaureate ceremonies are part of a celebration for graduates, their families and friends, and members of the Stanford community. The Baccalaureate ceremony will be held on the Main Quad on Saturday, June 17. Commencement will be held in the Stanford Stadium on Sunday, June 18. For more information, visit the Commencement website.

Media Contacts

E.J. Miranda, University Communications: (650) 724-9161,