Bronx Community College Holds 50th Commencement

Bronx, NY – Governor David A. Paterson’s commencement address at Bronx Community College (BCC) drew laughter and cheers from the more than 1,000 graduates and 3,000 parents, children and loved ones in attendance. Paterson, who worked on the BCC campus many years ago, praised graduates for persevering and meeting challenging responsibilities of family, job and college as they moved toward commencement day. He also urged the students to always remember how faculty members have helped them, and to never forget that they graduated from Bronx Community College.

The governor briefly turned to the state’s economic condition. “The state is running out of money. For too long we have been spending for things we didn’t have money for,” said Paterson. He criticized corporate heads, business people and Wall Street for pursuing reckless financial schemes that have jeopardized New York state homeowners and jobholders. He described how some New Yorkers are flipping their addresses to other states to avoid paying their fair share of New York State taxes while lower income residents are bearing the brunt of hard times. “We need to find ways of bringing greater revenue into the state so that everybody shares in the coming sacrifices,” he said.

Paterson encouraged the graduates as he cited abolitionist Harriet Tubman and human rights activist Malcolm X as exemplary people who persevered through tough economic times. Both of these leaders faced challenges and didn’t give up, said Paterson, who urged the graduates to make the best of their degrees and stay targeted on their goals. 

 “This is your time when you will bring your knowledge to work for freedom and dignity for our communities and the world,” stated President Carolyn G. Williams. She quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson as she stated, “‘Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail!’ I see you leading the way, forging a path that others will follow.”

Easter Z. Wood also addressed the graduates. She currently works in the BCC Office of Student Life and graduated from the College as the valedictorian in 2006. She missed her own graduation at City College of New York, where she obtained a master’s degree in history, to speak at the commencement.  “BCC’s slogan is ‘Transforming Lives’ and it truly lives up to those words for many of us,” said Wood. “It has been the start of wonderfully successful academic and professional careers for many people. My path from BCC has led to Harvard University.  I can’t wait to see where yours is going to lead you.” Wood will join Harvard University in the fall with a five-year fellowship (valued at over $200,000) in the African and African American Studies Department’s Ph.D. Program.

More than 1,025 graduates received degrees and certificates in 40 program areas. The valedictorian was Asnette Lockhart, a business administration/accounting major who came to the United States from Jamaica in 2002. She shared that she was encouraged to go to BCC by her employer, Lowell Hawthorne. A 1996 BCC graduate, Hawthorne is president and chief executive officer of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery and Grill.  Also among the graduates was Denise Negron, who received her associate in applied science degree in media technology. “I feel really excited,” she said. “Now, I can pursue my dreams to become a movie director.” Fellow media tech graduate Everett Mitchell was equally enthusiastic about his experience at the College. “Taking classes at BCC was a wonderful challenge,” he said. Mitchell plans to attend Lehman College in the fall.

“We hope that this day will be the start of lives that are productive and satisfying,” said Bernard Gantt, dean of Enrollment Management. “We hope that the days [the graduates] have spent here may be the prologue for happy and fulfilling days yet to come.”   

Founded in 1957, Bronx Community College (BCC), the oldest of City University of New York’s six community colleges, serves as the engine for academic and economic mobility for motivated students from diverse backgrounds and preparations. More than 11,000 students from over 109 nations are enrolled in 30 associate degree and certificate programs including Nursing, Radiologic Technology, Computer Graphics, Nuclear Medicine, and Business Administration, Digital Arts, Computer Information Systems, Education Associate, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Technology, Electronic Engineering Technology, Liberal Arts, Marketing, Accounting, Human Services, Media Technology and Paralegal Studies. BCC’s 43-acre campus, high above the Harlem River, features architectural masterpieces of Stanford White and Marcel Breuer, as well as the Hall of Fame of Great Americans, the nation’s first hall of fame. BCC President Carolyn G. Williams is in her 14th year of leadership service to the College, which is located on a 43-acre campus at 2155 University Avenue at West 181st Street , formerly New York University’s uptown campus until 1973.

The College is home to initiatives not commonly associated with two-year institutions, such as the Center for Sustainable Energy, which promotes the use of renewable and efficient energy technologies in urban communities. The National Center for Educational Alliances (NCEA) ) is currently collaborating with South African Further Education and Training Colleges and universities to create linkages between these institutions and is also working to enhance student and academic support at the colleges. NCEA also coordinates the College’s global initiative which facilitates global learning within and outside of the classroom.

Bryant Mason / (718) 289-5208 /