BMCC’s 46th commencement ceremony was held in the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan on June 6, with the College’s largest class to date—3,297 graduates from 150 countries crossed the stage to receive Associate degrees in 28 majors.
BMCC President Antonio Pérez oversaw the ceremony and Dr. Sadie Bragg, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, directed the conferring of degrees.
NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn delivers Commencement Address
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who delivered the Commencement Address, was key in creating the Safe Housing Act. She is also working with Congress on two critical pieces of anti-bullying legislation requiring schools which receive federal funding to implement anti-bullying policies.
“We’re lucky to have her on our side,” said President Pérez. “She is the first woman, first Irish and first LGBT New Yorker to be elected Speaker of the Council.”
Not only has Quinn focused her efforts on public safety, affordable housing and early childhood education, he said, she has attracted high-tech companies to all five boroughs, created jobs by investing in the City’s food system, and worked to allocate millions of dollars to support CUNY services and programs.
“Because of her support and the support of the Council,” said Pérez “BMCC is the only CUNY College to offer childcare seven days a week.” In addition, he said, “the City Council, under Speaker Quinn’s leadership, agreed with the Mayor to commit $129 million in City funding, so that BMCC’s Fiterman Hall [destroyed on 9/11] can reopen in the fall of 2012.”
Show up first, leave last
“Our City and our nation are still reeling from the effects of the recession,” Speaker Quinn told the graduates, “but I can promise you we’re working around the clock to get more New Yorkers like you back to work…You are our secret weapon. You’re going to start small businesses, and dream up the next great technology. You’re the most talented, prepared workforce in the world.”
She advised the graduates, “Whatever you do, do it the best you can. Show up first and leave last. Be the most prepared person in the room…don’t listen to ‘self-appointed experts’ who tell you, you can’t do it. Instead, listen to those who believe in your unlimited potential.”
A Presidential Medalist and special guests
This year’s Presidential Medal recipient was BMCC Foundation Board member Jack Owens, President of Solo Systems, Inc., and of the consulting firm, Implementation and Consulting Services.
“He understands the world of technological advancement that many of our graduates of BMCC are about to enter,” said President Pérez, “whether through the computer information industry, the Allied Health fields, the financial industry, or other exciting areas.”
Surprise guest New York State Senator Charles Schumer spoke to the graduates, announcing his “class gift,” a $2,500 federal tax credit for parents putting their children through college and earning under $200,000 a year. In addition, Schumer said, “We prevented the bad guys from cutting Pell Grants,” a funding aide that enables close to half of all CUNY students to attend college.
CUNY Board of Trustees member Peter Pantaleo urged the BMCC graduating class to “give back” to the communities of New York City. “The foundation BMCC has given you is far more than a line on a resume,” he said. “It’s the strategic architecture of your life.”
Allan Dobrin, CUNY Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer congratulated the graduates on behalf of CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein for “balancing school, work and family,” and quoted Robert Frost, “who said that education gives a person the ability to listen to anything without losing your temper.”
Inspiration from student leaders
Student Government President John Marshall talked of the challenges students endured to reach this day.
“I’m sure you can identify with some of the stormy moments,” he said, “CUNY exams, trouble getting financial aid, and a term paper that is 40% of your grade.” The audience of seasoned New Yorkers cheered with recognition when he presented this scenario: “You’re on the #2 train rushing to class from the Bronx, and you hear this announcement: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, due to signal problems, this train will be making all local stops’.”
He especially congratulated graduates who are single parents or speak English as an additional language, as well as “those from Haiti, China, Chili and Japan, countries adversely affected by natural disasters,” who “weathered the hurricanes of life."
“Today, here comes the sun,”he said in closing.
Valedictorian Lorraine Singletary movingly described her journey from high school dropout and young mother, to college graduate with a 4.0 grade point average. A Video Arts and Technology (VAT) major, she earned her GED at age 17, and went to work as an administrative assistant in a real estate agency, eventually earning her real estate license. “I’m honestly astonished to be here,” she said.
Referring to VAT concepts from her studies at BMCC, she spoke of the “back story” to her life: losing her father at the age of 12, and losing her place in school. “I cut class, I hung out, I didn’t do any work, and big surprise, I was failing.”
She compared the process of turning her life around, to the film concept, “Every character has an arc.” When she gave birth to a daughter, she said, “I wanted to be a role model and inspire her,” and returned to school, proving, “It’s never too late to fix a bad situation.”
In closing, she likened her life to the stages of pre-production, in which “we decide what to do with our lives”; production, “where things change, or things go wrong,” and post-production, “the time to make changes, and correct mistakes.”
In the graduates’ words
Johanna Lugo, who majored in Multimedia Programming and Design, “loved learning so many aspects of digital design,” and “wants to pursue a career in graphic design that incorporates fine art.”
Accounting major Yolamde Guei, now headed to Lehman College says, “The best part was the professors—they make sure you understand the concepts. And because of the Accounting Club, you have a place to talk about the class material more.”
Theatre major Chanou Wiltshire just received a scholarship from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and says, “the theatre department at BMCC is small but the talent, including the professors, is very large, very impressive.”
Math major Harry Joseph, who will major in statistics at Hunter College this fall says, “I love me some Calculus and Statistics—can’t get enough!,” and Anita Singleton, a Health Information Technology major, is considering an online bachelor’s degree program.
Computer Information Systems graduate Kim Abe will transfer to Baruch College, and says his professors at BMCC were “cutting edge, always hitting new technologies that were coming out.”
Writing and Literature major Catchcha Richards plans to continue working on the literature Web-blog she started with classmates at BMCC in her Young Adult Literature class, and transfer to Brooklyn College.
Jeffrey Carter, an Early Childhood Education graduate, is headed to Hunter College to get a bachelor’s in education and says the best part of being at BMCC “was speaking with the professors, getting different ideas from different people.”
Human Services graduate Jennifer Vasquez is transferring to York College for a bachelor’s in social work. “The staff and faculty at BMCC were always available outside of class,” she says, “and I was able to put together a class schedule that worked around my child’s day care.”
Ieylyn Long, a graduate of the Nursing department, says, “Pediatrics was my favorite class. I love kids, learning how to deal with how delicate they are in a medical situation.”
Patrick Tabertus, a Business Administration major headed to Brooklyn College says, “What helped me the most was the fact that the professors share their first-hand experience in the business world.”
Vanessa Labranche, a Liberal Arts graduate, is already attending Queens College as an education major, and looks back fondly on “those personal connections with staffers and professors at BMCC.”