Remarkable June Grads Break
Among the marquee names headlining the
round of Spring 2002 City University commencement ceremonies
were Senator Hillary Clinton, who addressed BMCC graduates
at Madison Square Garden, the former Surgeon General David
Satcher, the speaker at the CUNY Medical School, and, in one
of her rare speaking roles, the soprano Jessye Norman, who
addressed graduates of John Jay College. Former president
of the Dominican Republic Leonel Fernandez Reyna was
the featured speaker for Lehman College, while former Mayor
David Dinkins addressed CUNY BA grads at Cooper Unions
|Mathematician Freeman A. Hrabowski III,
President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County,
gave the keynote address and received a D.H.L. at the
Brooklyn College commencement.
A notable theme among the 21 exercises that took place from
May 24 to June 10 was remembrance of the World Trade Center
attacks. Frederick Curry accepted an award on behalf of his
wife Beverly, a College of Staten Island student who worked
at Cantor Fitzgerald. Police and Fire Commissioners Raymond
Kelly and Nicholas Scoppetta accepted the Presidents
Medal on behalf of uniformed responders at City Colleges
Brilliant humanitarian or artistic accomplishment was honored
as well by a wide array of degrees honoris causa. Queens
College honored its longtime champion, former Borough President
Claire Shulman, and master dancer Marion Cole. Brooklyn College
celebrated the careers of two alumni: the cinematic man-of-all-work
Paul Mazursky and media journalist and financial analyst Myron
Kandel. Among those receiving laurels from the Graduate Center
were feminist author Gloria Steinem and Rachel Robinson, founder
of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Medgar Evers College posthumously
honored jazz drummer and scholar William Willie
Jones, for whom the Colleges Jazz Archives have been
named. City College honored architect Frank Gehry.
The great cause for rejoicing was not on the dais, however,
but in the audience among the mortarboards and shiny new class
rings. University officials estimate that slightly more CUNY
studentsabout 29,000will earn degrees this commencement
season, from certificates up to the doctorate. As always,
there are among these new graduates some life stories that
deserve an A+ for courage, determination, creativity, or sheer
serendipity. Following here is but a small sampling of some
graduates this year who cracked the mold on their way to a
No Lazy Dog Days at College of Staten
|Xavior and CSI grad Courtney Gross
At age ten, in spite of more than two dozen eye operations,
Courtney Sue Gross entirely lost her sight. Passionate about
reading, however, she whizzed through Grades I and II of Braille
in a mere five months and went on to a stand-out career in
elementary and high school.
Then came the banner year of 1999, when she graduated from
a cane to Xavior, a male golden retriever seeing eye dogand
matriculated into the Honors College of the College of Staten
Island, turning down an offer from Barnard College. Having
arrived at CSI with 16 college credits, Gross was able, in
just three years, to earn her Bachelors in psychology,
specializing in forensic psychology and maintaining a 3.87
CSIs professors have been encouraging and supportive,
providing guidance, opinions and insights, comments
Gross, and have always encouraged me despite my blindness,
and were willing to give their assistance, even if it didnt
directly involve class matters. After graduating from
CSIs Honors Collegenot to be confused with the
new CUNY-wide Honors College inaugurated in 2001Gross
will begin work in the fall toward a Masters in forensic
psychology at John Jay College.
Constant Loyalty to City Tech
|Violinist Pierre Constant in action.
Some time back, Daniel Constant and Gessie Castel, both natives
of Haiti, met at New York City Tech as math tutor and student.
They married, Gessie graduated, becoming a registered nurse,
and Daniel became a City Tech adjunct in math. Fast forward:
their three children Pierre (18), Daniel (17), and Jessica (14)
are now all City Tech students, and all three are also taking
the musical world by storm as the Constant Family String Trio.
When they performed at the Kennedy Center last fall in a program
honoring the publisher Katharine Graham, Washington's mayor
proclaimed "Constant Day."
Star among these prodigious progeny, for the moment at least,
is Pierre Constant who, in addition to appearing as
violinist and violist on the concert stage, is receiving an
Associate's degree in computer information systems. He registered
at City Tech at age 13, after a perfect performance on the
CUNY admissions test. In order to look older on campus, he
conceived the perfect disguise: a business suit, garb he has
continued to wear. His proud family watched him march in the
College's June 3 commencement procession.
Pierre plans to continue his two-part invention of a career.
This fall he will continue on at City Tech for a bachelorés
and is also enrolling at the Juilliard School, majoring in
performance. "My goal is to become a soloist for major orchestras,"
Pierre explains. "While I'm doing that, I would like to work
for a major computer company."
Fan of Mongolian Democracy
|Ariunkhishig Gonchigdorj pressing the
flesh on the Mongolian campaign trail for her father.
Mongolians have had just a little more than a decade to acquire
the taste for democracy, but they have done so with real enthusiasm.
In spite of its nomadic, scattered population and obstacles
like the Gobi Desert, 86% of the electorate trek to the polling
booth, putting American voters to shame. Hunter College
economics major Ariunkhishig Gonchigdorja brilliant
student, one of the best I have ever had, says professor
Cordelia Reimershopes some day to run for office in
her native land.
Like father, like daughter: he played a major role in the
democratic revolution, served as a member and speaker of its
Parliament, and just last year ran for the presidency. Ariunkhishig
took a leave to campaign for him. Though he lost, she speaks
enthusiastically of the experience, caravanning to every Mongolian
city. The Astoria resident came to the U.S. at age 16 to study
English, transferring from Utah Valley State College to Hunter
in 1999 because of its strong pre-med program. Economics caught
her fancy and she changed majors.
Last summer Ariunkhishig interned at the Central Bank of Mongolia,
and she is now taking masters-level classes. Her future
plans include a few years in Mongolia teaching part-time and
working at the Central Bank, a return to the U.S. for a Ph.D.
in economics, and then
One Day, One Family
|Mildred and Lynn Schaefer
Mildred Schaefer brought a lot of life experience to bear
on her sociology dissertation, Factors Related to Outcomes
of Drug Abuser Participation in a Prison Therapeutic Community.
For six years (until federal and state funding was cut), she
taught college courses in one minimum- and two maximum-security
New York State prisons.
She thoroughly enjoyed the experience. There were the
usual jokes about my captive audience, but I felt it was really
their intelligence that was captive, she recalls. And
Mildredwhose B.A. was in anthropology and Masters
is in sociology (both from SUNY New Paltz)also liked
the challenge of teaching courses in Race and Ethnic Relations
and the Sociology of Women to her all-male classes.
On May 30 both she and her daughter, Lynn Schaefer, received
doctoral degrees from the Graduate Center. Lynns studies
were in psychology, with a concentration in neuropsychology,
and she completed her dissertation on Visual Selective
Attention in Alzheimers Disease while coping with
newly born twins.
with a Ph.D.
V incent Henry has pulled duty directing traffic recentlyit
comes with the NYPD job, even when youre a 19-year veteran
of the force. But Henry has in recent years been performing
heavy surveillance in another precinct: the B. Altman Building.
At the Graduate Centers May 30 Commencement, Henry received
his doctorate in Criminal Justice.
The first police officer to be awarded a Fulbright Fellowship
(in 1989) and the son of an officer, Henrys eerily prescient
dissertation is titled, The Police Officer as Survivor:
The Psychological Impact of Exposure to Death in Contemporary
Urban Policing. Though he completed it before 9/11,
Henry was soon watching his theories tested throughout the
city. Not surprisingly, that other B. Altman resident, Oxford
University Press, has snapped the dissertation up for publication.
Not yet finally titled, the book will not be Henrys
first, however: just out in early May is a college textbook,
The Compstat Paradigm: Management Accountability in Policing,
Business, and the Public Sector. Compstat is a statistics-based
form of police deployment introduced in New York City during
the tenure of Commissioner William Bratton, who wrote the
foreword for Henrys book. When, in the fairly near future,
he turns in his badge, Henry hopes to be directing traffic
in a college classroom.
Ushering the GAO
Adriana Espinosa got high marks
from the Comptroller General of the General Accounting Office
for a report she submitted on the agencys Web presence
and the challenges of e-government. She produced the report
during a CUNY Rosenberg/ Humphrey internship two summers ago
in the Office of the Chief Economist in the nations
capital. Among her findings: it was difficult to locate GAO
information via a typical search engine.
Last summer, Espinosa was one of 29 students who attended
the American Economic Associations summer Minority Program
at the University of Colorado. Born and raised in Puerto Rico,
she was also valedictorian at the City College of New Yorks
156th commencement on May 31.
The opportunities City College has given me helped me
to grow in ways I never thought possible. This fall
Espinosa takes with her two major fellowshipsa Graduate
Opportunity and a Ford Founda-tionas she begins advanced
economics study at the University of California at Berkeley.
A Classic Case of Career Shift
Though Marcia DeVoe arrived in the city from Missoula, Montana,
to study art at the Pratt Institute, she found herself thumbing
compulsively through her grammar books from high school Latin
rather than haunting the studio. Heeding the call of the ancient
world, DeVoe soon transferred into Brooklyn Colleges
famed classics department, where (as a 3.98 GPA indicates)
she excelled in spite of a serious car accident that required
strenuous rehabilitation to a shattered foot. She was a member
of the Colleges Honors Academy and the winner of a Beinecke
Brothers Scholarship. Last summer she spent on archaeological
digs in Greece and Turkey.
Missing the canine companionship of rural Montana, DeVoe has
also worked as a dog groomer for seven years (now as a trainer
of apprentices), managed a Manhattan boarding kennel, and
now heads an organization that finds new owners for abandoned
In the fall DeVoe is headed for the nations top classics
program at the University of California at Berkeley, which
has offered her one of its most generous graduate fellowships.
Her field will be Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology.
Subtle Racism Creates
a Historian of Race
After earning an Associates in Media from Brookdale
Community College, Rena Jordan worked for 10 years on television
sets, in film studios, and on radio stations. She recalls
witnessing plenty of incidents of subtle racism and
overt sexism and feeling she needed a way to understand
and articulate the complexities of those events. So
Jordan returned to school at Brooklyn College, where one course
in particular, titled Reading Race, opened her
horizon. Reading Jefferson, Susan B. Anthony, and Frederick
Douglass gave me insight into American society and a desire
to participate in a more meaningful way, she says. For
a Project Ascend/McNair research project she examined the
influence of religion on the activists Sojourner Truth and
Fannie Lou Hamer. A Mellon Minority Fellowship helped her
to produce another essay on Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth
But Jordan expects her first book to emerge from her current
work conducting oral history interviews of African-American
soldiers who married European women in World War II. The cum
laude CUNY-BA graduate in American history, who was also a
Belle Zeller Fellow in 2000, heads this fall for doctoral
study in history at Princeton University, where she has been
awarded one of its Presidential Fellowships.
Diploma at 83
for KCC Booster
Hey, Seymour, thanks for all your computer help! a student
calls out to Seymour Honig as he crosses in front of the Kingsborough
Community College Library. I get that all the time,
says Honig. I love helping out the younger students.
I say I may not have a B.A., or a Masters, but Ive
got a CS degreecommon sense.
One of 2,000 My Turn program students over 60
who are served each year at KCC, Honig was born in 1919 and
served in WWII. Afterward, he had to cut his education at
NYU short to support a family on the good money$1.60
an hourthe Post Office was paying. After a 27-year stint,
he retired and began attending KCC with his wife 12 years
These have been the best years of my life, Honig
says, I love the facilities, location, attitude, and
family feeling; its my home. The campus has become
even more a home, since his wife now must reside in a health
Honig earned his 2002 Associates degree in the KCC Travel
and Tourism program, where he has helped to develop the Meeting
and Planning Virtual Enterprise business at the College. This
program allows students to work in virtual businesses much
as a pilot or a police officer does in a virtual cockpit or
Honig feels he has learned so much from his KCC professors.
Ive never had a bad class. Each teacher provides
a unique perspective and I learn from all
Even after I graduate, Im going to keep taking
classes. Maybe Ill go for a degree in computers. Kingsborough
is my salvation.