St. Mary’s University alumna and actress Vanessa Martinez served as keynote speaker at the 13th annual Fall Commencement Exercises on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013.

“You’re made in the image of an extraordinary God, so use your talents to live extraordinary lives,” she told graduates.

Martinez has appeared in films such as “Casa de los babys” and “Warrior.” She played Young Pilar in John Sayles’ Academy Award-nominated film “Lone Star” in 1996, and she received an Independent Spirit Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the 1999 film “Limbo.”

Her recent projects include the films “Go For Sisters,” starring Edward James Olmos, and “McFarland,” with Kevin Costner. She also has appeared in TV shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “ER” and “2 Broke Girls.”

Martinez graduated with a B.A. in English and Communication Studies in 2001, making her the first college graduate in her family. She credits St. Mary’s for an extraordinary academic experience in which she developed a passion to serve her community, made lifelong friends and met her husband, Ariel Gonzales.

“St. Mary’s provided me an outstanding education in a nourishing learning environment,” she said at commencement. “More than anything, St. Mary’s prepared me for the real world.”

The University celebrated the accomplishments of 277 new graduates, including 130 bachelor’s degrees, 144 master’s degrees and three doctoral degrees.

Commencement exercises were held at 1:30 p.m. at Bill Greehey Arena, located inside the Alumni Athletics & Convocation Center on the St. Mary’s campus. Baccalaureate Mass was Friday, Dec. 13 at 5:30 p.m., also at Greehey Arena.

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