BMCC’s 48th commencement exercises were held Friday, May 31, 2013 in the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, recognizing over 3,100 graduates from the classes of August 2012, January 2013 and June 2013.
The ceremony also marked BMCC’s 50th anniversary, and some of the college’s first graduates were in attendance, including Lobi RedHawk (’66). “There were 200 of us back then,” she said, and BMCC President Antonio Pérez noted that the early alumni “cleared the path for today’s graduates.”
As Grand Marshall, Senior VP for Academic Affairs Sadie Bragg led the processional, and speakers included CUNY Board of Trustees Vice Chairperson Philip Alfonso Berry; CUNY Executive Vice Chancellor Alexandra Logue; U.S. Senator from New York Charles Schumer, and Andrew Grant, President of the BMCC Student Government Association.
Valedictorian Tabitha Rinko-Gay spoke of “the amazing variety that makes up the student body at BMCC … we connected with each other because we were all ready to work hard towards a specific goal, an associate’s degree.”
Rinko-Gay, a Writing & Literature major and former dancer with the New York City Ballet, worked full-time while earning a 4.0 GPA, participating in Phi Theta Kappa and volunteering on campus.
Christine Larsen, Presidential Honoree
The Presidential Medal was presented to Christine Larsen, Chairperson of the BMCC Foundation Board.
Until recently, Christine Larsen served as Executive Vice President and Head of Process Improvement for JP Morgan Chase. Her finance career began in 1984 at Accenture, a global company where she was a senior manager in the financial services practice. In 1994 she joined Smith Barney, and led Citigroup’s Global Operations for Corporate and Investment Banking.
“These accomplishments speak volumes about Christine’s intelligence, her judgment, and her hard work,” said President Pérez.
“At BMCC, we consider ourselves fortunate that she has applied those qualities to supporting our mission to help our students reach their educational goals and improve their lives.”
Active in the BMCC Foundation Board for several years, Larsen took on the role of Chair in 2012.
“The innovative directions she has taken us in,” said President Pérez, “have resulted in more scholarships for our deserving students than we have ever been able to offer.”
One of these efforts included BMCC’s 50th anniversary celebration on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, which raised an unprecedented $840,000 in scholarship funds.
“I am from Iowa, and have some plain things to say,” Larsen opened her remarks. Her grandfather, she said, “shoveled coal on the railroad, but he valued education.”
She advised the sea of graduates in the vast conference hall, “to be the person to take things off your boss’ desk. Think ahead. Be creative. Figure out how to solve the problem yourself. Say to your boss, ‘I can do more’.”
She also called upon the graduates to “continue to support education, and encourage future graduates to enroll at BMCC.”
Diverse degrees, plans and lives
The graduates took their turn major by major, to walk across the stage and receive their diploma.
Edwin Gomez, a computer network technology major, grew up in the Bronx and is applying to City College and Lehman College. Crystal Urena, from Brooklyn, earned her degree in Health Information Technology and was hired at Downtown Hospital through her internship at BMCC.
Kavita Seelal, from Trinidad, earned her associate’s degree in Office Operations and Business Management, and is headed for York College. Accounting graduate Xuexin Zheng, who grew up in China, is applying for a summer internship in an accounting firm, and Hunter College.
Multimedia Arts & Technology major Natanielle Murta, moved to New York from Brazil, and is applying to Baruch College, where she wants to major in marketing.
Cigdem Metin, who was wearing her yellow Phi Theta Kappa sash, is a Video Arts and Technology graduate.
"I'm an international student from Turkey and graduated in two years,” says Metin. “I still have a sister attending BMCC, so perhaps we're starting a family tradition. I was very active in PTK at BMCC and found that it helped me sharpen my leadership and networking skills. I'm also very interested in pursuing documentary work—I'd like to explore human-rights filmmaking—and will most likely attend City College."
Mentors and moms
Cira Miranda, from the Dominican Republic, earned her degree in Human Services and is headed for Lehman College.
Lavell Giles, also a Human Services graduate, says, "I’ll miss my Human Services Professor Pamela Edstrom the most—she’s the one who told me: ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood’, and that quote guided me through BMCC and will guide me through life. I’m interested in a career in physical therapy and will be attending the College of Staten Island this fall."
Nursing major Fooshard Embrose is working as a medical assistant in a hospital hematology department, and Yvette Thomas, a Writing & Literature graduate working at Harlem Hospital, is actually returning to BMCC this fall to earn a second associate degree, this time, in nursing.
Criminal Justice major Shaquanna Meadows, who grew up in Brooklyn, completed her courses at BMCC last fall, and is already attending the criminal justice management program at John Jay College.
The largest group to graduate is those earning their degree in Liberal Arts, and one of these graduates, James Brown—whose mother also attended BMCC—is heading to SUNY Albany this fall, where he’ll study psychology.
“My mom suggested I attend BMCC first,” says Brown. “That way I could attend a college that was financially affordable and close to home, before heading to a four-year school.”
“I loved how BMCC's evening courses allowed me to work during the day—I work at a retail store in Times Square—and take courses at night. This college really opened up me up to all sorts of people, many of whom arrange their classes around work like I did. I'm proud to follow in my mom's footsteps by graduating from BMCC then going to a four-year school; she went to John Jay."
Another liberal arts major, Nneka Farrell, will attend Baruch College in the fall. “My goal is to open my own real estate firm,” she says. “I'm already a licensed real estate broker; I've always had a passion for sales. I'm proud of myself for graduating today and I'll miss the faculty here—they treat you like an individual, not a number in a crowd."