WESTWOOD—Former UCLA basketball star Anita Ortega, the first African-American woman to become a Los Angeles Police Department area captain, will be UCLA’s commencement speaker in June, officials announced on Monday, April 3.
“Anita’s achievements are a testament to her perseverance, her dedication to public service and her Bruin spirit,” said Patricia Turner, Senior Dean of UCLA. “Our new graduates are bound to be inspired and energized by her words.”
Ortega was admitted into UCLA in 1976 with a partial academic scholarship, and was the first in her family to attend a four-year university. Her freshman year, she made UCLA’s Division I women’s basketball team as a walk-on, and her performance on the court earned her a full athletic scholarship for the following year. In 1978, she lead the Bruins to their first national championship with a game-high 23 points in a 90-74 win over the Maryland Terps, earning her an All-American honorable mention.
From 1979 to 1981, Ortega took a hiatus from education and went on to earn All-Pro honors in the Women’s Professional Basketball League with the San Francisco Pioneers before returning to UCLA to finish her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1982. After graduation, she served as the assistant coach for the women’s basketball team for two years, and in 2002 she was inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame.
Ortega joined the LAPD in 1984, and in 2002 attained the rank of area captain of the Hollenbeck Division, which serves a community of about 200,000 residents on Los Angeles’ Eastside. She retired in 2016.
Ortega was named the UCLA Latino Almuni Association’s Aluma of the Year in 2011, and received the UCLA Alumni Association’s Public Service Award in 2015. She was selected by the California State Assembly as the 2012 Woman of the Year for the 46th District. She currently serves as a NCAA Division I women’s basketball official, and president of Motivational Enterprise Inc., through which she motivates female professionals to overcome obstacles and find success.
Ortega will be speaking on June 16 at both UCLA commencement ceremonies, which are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. in Pauley Pavilion.