Cal Poly Announces Keynote Speakers for Spring Commencement Ceremonies June 17 and 18

Clif Bar's Gary EricksonGary Erickson, the Cal Poly alumnus who founded Clif Bar & Company, a leading maker of nutritious and organic energy foods, and Phil Bailey, the university’s long-serving dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, will deliver keynote addresses at three spring 2017 commencement ceremonies June 17 and 18 at Cal Poly.

Erickson, who graduated with a business administration degree in 1980, will address the College of Liberal Arts and Orfalea College of Business at 9 a.m. and the colleges of Engineering and Architecture and Environmental Design at 3 p.m. on June 17. Bailey will address the colleges of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, and Science and Mathematics at 9 a.m. June 18. All ceremonies will take place in Alex G. Spanos Stadium on campus.

Erickson and his wife, Kit Crawford, are co-owners and co-chief visionary officers of Clif Bar & Company. Created 25 years ago, CLIF Bar® is named after Erickson’s father, Clifford, who introduced him to wilderness adventures and encouraged him to follow his passions in life.

The inspiration for a better energy bar came to Erickson, then a baker, during a 175-mile bike ride. With his mother’s help, he refined a recipe that first caught on with cyclists. The Emeryville-based company, which remains family- and employee-owned, has since expanded beyond its original energy bar to create a range of other products, from LUNA® bar — the first nutrition bar for women — to energy gels and recovery drinks.

The couple has remained true to their values and repeatedly rejected buyout proposals — including a $120 million offer in 2000 — choosing to remain private in order to run a different kind of company, grounded by a Five Aspirations business model: sustaining business, brands, people, community, and the planet.

Erickson has visited San Luis Obispo a few times since graduating. In 2015, he returned to campus to speak to a group of Cal Poly business students “to tell them what a C student can do.” (He said he graduated with a 2.4 GPA.)

These days, the experienced outdoorsman packs CLIF Bars on adventures that have taken him around the world. He is an accomplished rock climber, cyclist, mountain biker, skier and backpacker. Erickson has cycled through the French and Italian Alps, trekked in the Himalayas and competed in 24-hour mountain bike events.

Dean Phil BaileyBailey is the longest-serving dean since Cal Poly first offered classes in October of 1903. He has led the College of Science and Mathematics for 34 years.

He oversaw the construction of Faculty Offices East building and the Baker Center for Science and Mathematics — the campus’s newest and largest academic building — and developed Study 25-35, an academic success initiative that encourages students to study two hours per unit each week, or the equivalent of 25-35 hours weekly.

Bailey joined the chemistry faculty in 1969. He became associate dean in 1973, was named had of the college in 1983, and has twice acted as interim vice president for academic affairs. Throughout his 48-year career at Cal Poly, Bailey has focused on students, teaching almost every quarter. He and his wife, Christina Bailey, former chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, co-authored a widely translated textbook and performed the chemistry magic show for more than 125,000 people.

His numerous accolades include INSIGHT Into Diversity Magazine’s Giving Back Award for administrators in higher education and an Ambassador of Goodwill award for his support of African-American and other underrepresented students. He has also been honored by both Cal Poly and the California Legislature for excellence in leadership, philanthropy and student advising.

The Baileys, who have four grown children, have assisted countless students both financially and as mentors, including more than 15 underrepresented students who lived with the family while attending Cal Poly.

Cal Poly will confer degrees on nearly 4,500 graduates June 17 and 18. For more information about spring commencement, visit