May 4, 2016

Renown arts educator Rory Pullens named San Diego Mesa College 2016 Distinguished Alumnus

Pullens to address Mesa’s 52nd Commencement exercises, Saturday, May 14th at USD

By Office of Communications

rory pullens

Nationally recognized arts educator Rory Pullens is San Diego Mesa College’s 2016 Distinguished Alumnus. Pullens will address the college’s Class of 2016 at its 52st commencement exercises, which takes place at 4 p.m. Saturday, May 14, at the Jenny Craig Pavilion at the University of San Diego.

Since 2014, Pullens has served as Executive Director of Arts Education for the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest district with over 700,000 students, where he has focused on increasing access and equity to the arts for all students.

“Mesa College is proud to honor Rory Pullens as our 2016 Distinguished Alumnus,” said Dr. Pamela T. Luster, president. “He is a model of success that embodies the achievements that can result from a comprehensive educational experience. His achievements in equity and access aligns perfectly with our goal at Mesa, which is to be the leading college of equity and excellence.

Nearly 2,000 students will receive degrees from Mesa College this year, one of the largest graduating classes in its history. 1,557 students will receive Associate Degrees and 253 will receive Certificates of Achievements. 521 will graduate with honors; 29 of which are valedictorians with a perfect GPS of 4.0. Most plan to transfer to a four-year institution.

A native of San Diego, Pullens graduated from Crawford High School and then studied Journalism at Mesa College in the mid-‘70s, where the foundation of his diverse education and entertainment careers got its start.

“Mesa College afforded me the opportunity to receive quality instruction and personal attention in developing my craft, as well as career guidance as to what I could accomplish after my Mesa experience. And this entrée into higher education was affordable!” said Pullens.

Pullens went on to attain degrees in Film/Media, Theatre, and English, and a Masters in Educational Administration and Speech Communications from Loma Linda University in Riverside.

His education transformed his life and career. Pullens spent nearly twenty years as an arts teacher and administrator, including administrator of the prestigious Denver School of the Arts. He led the design of the first elementary arts school in the Denver Public Schools. From 2005-2014, Pullens was Chief Executive Officer/Head of School at the nationally renowned Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington DC, where his inner city urban students posted annual graduation rates of 98% and college acceptance rates of 95% and were regular performers at the White House for the Obama administration.

Pullens’ Hollywood entertainment credits in film and television include writer/producer of the award-winning stage production The Choice is Yours starring veteran actress Mabel King. He holds production, scriptwriting and editing credits for various Hollywood ventures, working with Robert Townsend (Hollywood Shuffle, The Five Heartbeats), casting director Jaki Brown (The Jackson’s miniseries, Waiting to Exhale), Lou Diamond Phillips, James Edwards Olmos, (Stand and Deliver), Ron Glass, Desmond Wilson on HBO’s The New Odd Couple and NBC’s A Different World.

The Mesa College Distinguished Alumni Award was established in 2011 to recognize former students who have made significant contributions to society, and whose accomplishments, affiliations, and careers have honored the legacy of academic excellence at San Diego Mesa College. Prior honorees include US District Judge the Honorable Anthony Battaglia, community advocates Carlos and Linda LeGerrette, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Arnie Robinson, filmmaker Raul Celaya, and artist Miya Hannan.

Tags: Distinguished Alumni, Commencement 2016, Commencement