America’s first lady Michelle Obama, New York City’s first lady, Chirlane McCray and Ford Foundation President Darren Walker head an impressive list of distinguished public servants, scientists, pioneering researchers on HIV/AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease, educators, jurists, lawyers, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, authors, actors and journalists who are the speakers and honorees for the 2016 commencement ceremonies at The City University of New York.
Michelle Obama will deliver the commencement address at City College; Chirlane McCray will address the graduating class of the CUNY Baccalaureate Degree; and Darren Walker will be the commencement speaker at Queens College.
Chancellor James B. Milliken stated: “The CUNY Class of 2016 is a source of immense pride and satisfaction for our University, the city and the state. These students have worked long and hard for this important achievement and, by obtaining their diplomas, they carry the promise of our future. I know also that our graduates join me in offering special thanks to CUNY’s world-class faculty and dedicated staff who, together with families, alumni, donors and college friends, have guided, supported and helped ensure the success of our students and the joy of the coming commencement season. The vast majority of CUNY’s graduates will remain in New York, where they will work, study and contribute to the social, intellectual, cultural and economic vitality of our communities. I welcome the family members, friends, alumni and others who will join us in celebrating achievement at this spring’s commencement ceremonies.”
Dr. S. James Gates, Jr., the John S. Toll Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland who received the National Medal of Science from President Obama in 2013, and is the first African-American to hold an endowed chair in physics at a major U.S. research university, will speak at New York City College of Technology. At York College, the Hon. Julian Castro, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and former mayor of San Antonio, Texas, will deliver the commencement address. At Hunter College, Arianna Huffington, co-founder, president and editor in chief of the Huffington Post Media Group will speak, and Klara Silverstein, a trustee and chair of the Hunter College Foundation, will receive an honorary degree. Dr. Tashni-Ann Dubroy, president of Shaw University in North Carolina and a member of Kingsborough Community College’s Class of 2000, will be the speaker and Presidential Medal recipient at Kingsborough’s commencement, and Carol Geary Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, will receive the President’s Medal at Guttman Community College. The Hon. Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge of the State of New York and Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals from 2009-15, who presided over the state’s highest court while heading a statewide court system with a budget of more than $2 billion, will speak and receive an honorary degree at the CUNY School of Law’s commencement. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer will speak at Bronx Community College’s commencement, where there will also be an investiture ceremony for President Thomas A. Isekenegbe, who began his tenure as the college’s sixth president in August 2015. Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, one of America’s largest philanthropic organizations, will be the commencement speaker at Queens College, while President Diane B. Call of Queensborough Community College will speak at Queensborough’s commencement.
Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Messier, who led the New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup title in 1994, will receive an honorary degree at Lehman College, along with Sonia Manzano, writer and actress renowned for her long-term role as María on the PBS series Sesame Street, and David González, whose work has ranged from the Oklahoma City bombing and Haiti’s humanitarian crises, to in-depth reports on how Latino immigration is shaping the United States. Manzano will also speak at the commencement exercise of the CUNY School of Professional Studies. At the College of Staten Island, Dr. Khalid Iqbal, world renowned researcher and winner of many prestigious awards, including the Potamkin Prize for Alzheimer’s disease research from the American Academy of Neurology, will receive an honorary degree, together with John Douglas Thompson, the acclaimed classical actor who has performed in all of Shakespeare’s plays as well as plays by Eugene O’Neill, Henrik Ibsen, and others. In addition, Presidential Medals will be awarded to Edward Burke, Staten Island deputy borough president; Dr. Christine D. Cea, research scientist and member of the New York State Board of Regents; Cesar J. Claro, president and CEO, Staten Island Economic Development Corporation; and Dr. Wilma L. Jones, associate dean and chief librarian at the College of Staten Island.
At Brooklyn College’s master’s ceremony for its Murray Koppelman School of Business and School of Education, alumnus Howard Brandston, internationally renowned leader in theatrical, commercial, and artistic lighting design, will be the keynote speaker and receive an honorary doctorate; while Paul Beatty educator, humorist, and National Book Critics Circle fiction award winner for his novel, The Sellout, will speak and receive the Distinguished Alumnus award at Brooklyn’s master’s ceremony for its Schools of Humanities and Social Sciences; Natural and Behavioral Sciences; and Visual, Media and Performing Arts. Meanwhile, alumna Deborah Poritz, former chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court and the first woman to hold that post, will be the main speaker and receive an honorary degree at Brooklyn’s baccalaureate ceremony; while Rhoda Jacobs of the Class of 1962, who was a New York State Assembly Member for 36 years, will receive the Distinguished Alumna Award; and alumnus Donald Kramer, former chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn College Foundation, will receive the Presidential Medal of Honor.
At the CUNY Graduate Center, Lorna Simpson, an African-American artist who is known internationally for her provocative works that address concepts of gender, ethnicity, culture and identity will receive an honorary degree, along with Reba White Williams, who has had a wide and varied career as an expert on fine art prints, a mystery writer and a philanthropist; and Curtis Wong principal researcher at Microsoft Research and an inventor and creator who holds 55 patents in areas ranging from data visualization and user interaction to media browsing and automated cinematography. In addition, professor Dennis Liotta will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award for discoveries that have helped to transform HIV/AIDS from a death sentence to a chronic infection in which patients are able to live active, near normal lives. And at Macaulay Honors College Dr. Marion Nestle, noted food studies scholar and consumer advocate whose research examines scientific and socioeconomic influences on food choice, obesity, and food safety, will speak and receive an honorary doctorate.
CUNY School of Law: 11 a.m., Kupferberg Center for Arts at Queens College, 5-30 Kissena Blvd., Flushing, N.Y.
Speaker and Honorary Degree: Doctor of Law: The Hon. Jonathan Lippman served as chief judge of the State of New York and chief judge of the Court of Appeals from February 2009 to December 2015, presiding over New York’s highest court while heading a statewide court system with a budget of over $2 billion, 3,600 state and locally paid judges, and 15,000 nonjudicial employees in over 300 locations around the state. During his tenure on the Court of Appeals, Chief Judge Lippman authored major decisions addressing constitutional, statutory and common law issues shaping the law of New York and the lives of all New Yorkers. As the state’s chief judge, he championed equal access to justice issues and took an active leadership role in identifying permanent funding streams for civil legal services.
Contact: Lucille Renwick, 718-340-4472
Medgar Evers College: 9 a.m., Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Keynote Speaker: Veteran Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile is an adjunct professor, author, syndicated columnist, television political commentator, Vice Chair of Voter Registration and Participation at the Democratic National Committee, and former interim National Chair of the Democratic National Committee as well as the former chair of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute. Aside from working for the full recovery of her beloved New Orleans, Ms. Brazile’s passion is encouraging young people to vote, to work within the system to strengthen it, and to run for public office. Since 2000, Ms. Brazile has lectured at over 150 colleges and universities across the country on such topics as “Inspiring Civility in American Politics,” “Race Relations in the Age of Obama,” “Why Diversity Matters,” and “Women in American Politics.”
Baruch College: 4 p.m., Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Speaker: Dr. Mitchel B. Wallerstein, president of Baruch College.
Contact: Suzanne Bronski, 646-660-6093
CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies: 10 a.m., The Great Hall at Cooper Union, 7 East 7th St. (between 3rd Ave. and 4th Ave.) New York, N.Y.
Keynote Speaker: First lady of New York City Chirlane McCray, a graduate of Wellesley College, is an author, speechwriter, poet, activist, mother of two, and wife and adviser to Mayor Bill de Blasio. She leads the city’s work on mental health and addiction.
Contact: Regina Matthews, 212-817-8223
John Jay College of Criminal Justice Ceremony I: (10:30 a.m. ceremony). Theater at Madison Square Garden, 2 Pennsylvania Plaza, Manhattan.
Speaker and Honorary Degree: Doctor of Civil Law: Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, a Distinguished Professor at the UCLA School of Law and a professor at Columbia Law School, is an American civil rights advocate and a leading scholar of critical race theory. In 1996, she co-founded the African American Policy Forum, a nonprofit think tank and information clearinghouse that seeks to build bridges between scholarly research and public discourse in addressing inequality and discrimination, and advancing and expanding racial justice, gender equality, and the indivisibility of all human rights, both in the U.S. and internationally. In 2011, she co-founded the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies at Columbia University. Crenshaw is also a former assistant to the legal team representing Anita Hill at the U.S. Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Her legal scholarship has been published in the Harvard Law Review, the National Black Law Journal, the Stanford Law Review and the Southern California Law Review, and has been cited as influential in the drafting of the Constitution of South Africa. Her numerous professional accolades include the Outstanding Scholar Award from the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation, a Fulbright Chair for Latin America in Brazil, multiple Professor of the Year honors from UCLA law school, and Ms. magazine’s No. 1 Most Inspiring Feminist award.
Contact: Doreen Viñas, 212-237-8645
Brooklyn College: Master’s Ceremony I (1:45 p.m. ceremony). Schools of Humanities and Social Sciences; Natural and Behavioral Sciences; and Visual, Media and Performing Arts. Whitman Hall, 2900 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Keynote Speaker and Distinguished Alumnus Award: Paul Beatty ’89 M.F.A. is an educator, humorist, and award-winning writer from Los Angeles, who recently received the National Book Critics Circle fiction award for his latest novel, The Sellout. He is the author of several acclaimed novels and books of poetry, including Big Bank Take Little Bank: New Cafe Poets, No.1 (1991); Joker, Joker, Deuce (1994); The White Boy Shuffle (1996); Tuff (2000); and Slumberland (2008) — many of which have seen global success and have been translated in multiple languages. Beatty is a recipient of the John Dos Passos Prize, Creative Capital Award for Literature, Jasper Johns Fellowship from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship for Poetry. In 1990, Beatty became the first-ever Nuyorican Poets Café grand slam poetry champion.
Contacts: Jason Carey, 347-486-1017; Ernesto Mora, 212-662-9939
John Jay College of Criminal Justice Ceremony II: (3:30 p.m. ceremony). Theater at Madison Square Garden, 2 Pennsylvania Plaza, Manhattan.
Speaker and Honorary Degree: Doctor of Letters: Eve Ensler, the playwright of “The Vagina Monologues,” has used the fame from that award-winning work as a springboard for global activism in pursuit of gender justice and ending sexual violence. Ensler, whose literary output includes dozens of plays, books and films, used the experience of performing “The Vagina Monologues” to create V-Day, a global activist movement to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day raises funds — more than $100 million to date — and awareness through annual benefit productions of Ensler’s signature work. Since 1998, the year she also founded V-Day, Ensler has led a writing group at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women, which was portrayed in the documentary “What I Want My Words to Do to You.” In 2012, she helped create One Billion Rising, a global protest campaign to end violence and promote justice and gender equality for women. Her memoir, In the Body of the World, published in 2013, has been hailed as “a ravishing book of revelation and healing, lashing truths and deep emotion, courage and perseverance, compassion and generosity.” For her untiring activism and artistic achievements, Ensler has been honored by such organizations as the Women’s Prison Association, Planned Parenthood, and Amnesty International, among others. In 2011, she was named as one of Newsweek magazine’s 150 Women Who Changed the World.
Contact: Doreen Viñas, 212-237-8645
Brooklyn College: Master’s Ceremony II (6:45 p.m. ceremony). Murray Koppelman School of Business and School of Education. Whitman Hall, 2900 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Keynote Speaker and Honorary Degree: Doctor of Fine Arts: Howard Brandston ’58 is a lighting designer whose outstanding 60-year career in theatrical, commercial, and artistic lighting design has earned him national and international distinction. After founding Brandston Partnership Inc. in 1965, his company designed the lighting for nearly 3,000 commercial, residential, and government projects in more than 60 countries, most notably the lighting of the Statue of Liberty; Central Park; London Bridge City; the University of Pennsylvania; the Decorative Arts Gallery at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles; the Ring of Fire Aquarium in Osaka, Japan; and the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Most recently, he designed the lighting for the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in New York City. Along with a long-term appointment at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the Feltman Chair in Lighting at Cooper Union, Brandston has taught and lectured at several schools during the past 50 years. He continues to promote his belief in the fundamental value of light through work with researchers from Harvard University and Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City on a unique ultraviolet projector that would kill airborne germs. He has published articles in more than 70 publications and has been recognized with over 100 awards, including the International Association of Lighting Designers Lifetime Achievement Award.
Contacts: Jason Carey, 347-486-1017; Ernesto Mora, 212-662-9939
Queens College: 9 a.m. (rain or shine) Queens College Quad, Queens College, 65-30 Kissena Blvd., Flushing, N.Y.
Speaker and Honorary Degree (Doctor of Humane Letters): Darren Walker. Darren Walker is president of the Ford Foundation, the nation’s second-largest philanthropic organization. For two decades he has been a leader in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, working on an array of social justice issues including education, human rights, urban development, and free expression. Prior to his work at the Ford Foundation, he had a decade-long career in international law and finance at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and UBS. As chief operating officer of Harlem’s leading community development organization, the Abyssinian Development Corporation, Walker oversaw development of more than 1,000 new units of low-income housing and Harlem’s first commercial development in 20 years. He is a member of the boards of Carnegie Hall, New York City Ballet, the High Line, and the Arcus Foundation. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the recipient of several honorary degrees. Walker graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1982 with a B.A. in government and a B.S. in speech communication, and from the University of Texas School of Law with a JD in 1986. He received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Texas at Austin, its highest honor. Honorary Degree (Doctor of Humane Letters): Dr. Ira Katznelson. Katznelson co-founded Politics and Society, one of the foremost journals of the social sciences and humanities. He was president of the American Political Science Association, and is currently president of the Social Science Research Council and Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History at Columbia University. Among his many distinctions is having been a Guggenheim Fellow as well as having been elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Philosophical Society. One of his first teaching jobs was serving as an adjunct at Queens College.
Contact: Maria Matteo, 718-997-5593
Brooklyn College Baccalaureate Ceremony 9:30 a.m., East Quadrangle, 2900 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Distinguished Alumna Award: The Hon. Rhoda Jacobs ’62 served in the New York State Assembly for 36 years, representing the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Flatbush and Midwood, until her retirement in 2014. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Jacobs joined the New York State Assembly in 1978, eventually serving as assistant speaker after having chaired standing committees on oversight and social services. She also chaired the Assembly Task Force on Food and Nutrition, the Budget Conference Committee on Health and Human Services, and the Sub-committee on Public Utilities. An outspoken advocate for women and children, Jacobs was the founder and co-director of the Brooklyn College Day Care Center, the first of its kind in CUNY. She also passed legislation to increase WIC, the supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children, whereby some 30,000 more families annually received access to benefits. She passed legislation to mandate health insurers to cover mammograms, legislation to protect victims of domestic violence and advocated to enable public benefits recipients to attend school, leave welfare and earn a living wage. She maintained an active community service office, providing extensive constituent services that have supported the development of community-based organizations and secured funding for schools and youth programs. Presidential Medal of Honor: Donald Kramer ’58 is a current member and former chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn College Foundation. After earning his bachelor’s degree in economics, Kramer received an M.B.A. in economics and investments from New York University. He also earned a visiting professorship in the Humanities for his contributions to Brooklyn College, which span over 46 years. Kramer, who started as a security analyst at Moody’s, had a long career in both the investment community and the insurance and reinsurance industry. Later, he became a general partner at First Manhattan Company and Oppenheimer Company. In 1964, the CFA Institute awarded Mr. Kramer a coveted Graham and Dodd citation for his article, “Life Insurance Profit Margins,” published in the Financial Analysts Journal. In 1974, a property and casualty insurance industry study authored by Kramer had a similar effect on property and casualty security valuations. He has been awarded numerous honors for his business and charitable contributions and several lifetime achievement awards from various Insurance organizations. Most recently, he was awarded the Free Enterprise Award in New York and was voted into the Insurance Hall of Fame. He has also received the Queens Medal for his business and social work in Bermuda. Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters and Keynote Speaker: Deborah Poritz ’58 is a former chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, who has had a distinguished career in public service as an attorney and a jurist, and is the first woman to serve as chief justice in New Jersey. Poritz received her bachelor’s degree in English from Brooklyn College, graduating magna cum laude. A Woodrow Wilson Fellow in American and English literature at Columbia University, she continued her graduate studies at Brandeis University. Poritz, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, taught composition and literature at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania from 1967 to 1970, and then left to enter law school. In 1977, Poritz earned a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania and joined the office of the New Jersey Attorney General as a deputy attorney general. After being sworn in as chief justice, Poritz led the judiciary during a period of statewide unification that followed legislation transferring the responsibility for court funding from the counties to the state. Poritz retired from the bench in 2006 and in 2008 became counsel to the Princeton office of Drinker, Biddle & Reath. Among her awards and honors, Poritz has been presented with the National Association of Women Judges’ Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Civic Leadership Award from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.
Contacts: Jason Carey, 347-486-1017; Ernesto Mora, 212-662-9939
The College of Staten Island: 9:30 a.m., Great Lawn (rain or shine), 2800 Victory Blvd., Staten Island, N.Y.
Honorary Degree: Doctor of Science: Dr. Khalid Iqbal is professor and chairman of the Department of Neurochemistry at the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities, Staten Island, N.Y. Iqbal is the recipient of many prestigious honors and awards, including the Potamkin Prize for Alzheimer’s disease research from the American Academy of Neurology and the Zenith Award from the Alzheimer’s Association, USA. He founded and chaired the biennial International Conference on Alzheimer’s disease from 1988 to 2008. In 2007, Alzheimer’s Association, USA established a Khalid Iqbal Lifetime Achievement Award for Alzheimer’s Disease Research. Iqbal has authored more than 300 scientific papers in prestigious American and international scientific journals, and edited seven books on research advances in Alzheimer’s disease and related neurodegenerative disorders. He currently serves on the editorial boards of several journals. Honorary Degree: Doctor of Humane Letters: John Douglas Thompson is a distinguished and highly acclaimed classical actor who has made several visits to the college to speak to students taking courses in Shakespeare. He has performed in all of Shakespeare’s plays as well as plays by Eugene O’Neill, Henrik Ibsen, and others. His natural talent eventually led him to the Trinity Repertory Theatre in Providence, R.I., where he earned an MFA in Acting, then to Shakespeare and Company in Lenox, Mass., for more training, and finally to New York City. Mr. Thompson moves audiences with his psychologically realistic, emotionally open and poetically refined acting, and he has dedicated his career to breaking down racial barriers and unconscious biases, paving the way for a younger generation, while helping to transform the present one. Presidential Medals: Edward Burke, Staten Island deputy borough president; Dr. Christine D. Cea ’88, member, New York State Board of Regents, and research scientist, New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities (IBR); Cesar J. Claro, president and CEO, Staten Island Economic Development Corporation (SIEDC) and executive director, Richmond County Savings Foundation; and Dr. Wilma L. Jones, associate dean and chief librarian, College of Staten Island.
Contact: Ken Bach 718-982-2200
Lehman College: 10 a.m., South Field, 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, Bronx, N.Y.
Honorary Degree: Doctor of Humane Letters: Mark Messier is one of the greatest National Hockey League players of all time. He won six Stanley Cups, including one with the New York Rangers in 1994, which ended a 54-year drought for the team. Messier, who played center, is second on the all-time career lists for regular season points, playoff points and regular season games played. After playing for 25 seasons (one of a handful of players to do so), Messier retired in 2005 and was inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame in 2007. Honorary Degree: Doctor of Humane Letters: Sonia Manzano. Raised in the South Bronx by Puerto Rican parents, Sonia Manzano is a writer and actress who has affected the lives of millions of parents and children since the 1970s. She is best known for her long-term role as María on the PBS series Sesame Street (retired in 2015) as well as for being a champion for literacy. For her work on Sesame Street, Manzano earned 15 Emmy Awards (writing) and two Emmy nominations (acting). She has written several books including Becoming María: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx and The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano. She has also written for the Peabody Award-winning children’s series, Little Bill. Her children’s book, No Dogs Allowed, is one of five books selected by the General Mills initiative “Spoonfuls of Stories.” As part of that effort, Manzano is working with General Mills and its nonprofit partner, First Book, to encourage children to read and to help children across the United States gain access to books. She was recently awarded a Lifetime Achievement Daytime Emmy Award. Honorary Degree: Doctor of Humane Letters: David González is an award-winning journalist at The New York Times. Among other posts, he has been the Times’ Bronx Bureau Chief, and the “About New York” columnist, and the Central America and Caribbean Bureau Chief. His coverage has ranged from the Oklahoma City bombing and Haiti’s humanitarian crises, to chronicling how the Bronx emerged from years of official neglect, to in-depth reports on how Latino immigration is shaping the United States. Immediately after graduating from Columbia, González worked for Newsweek magazine and in 1990 joined the New York Times as a reporter for their Metro Desk, where he became known for stories focusing on the neighborhoods of New York City. As the Times’ citywide columnist from 2004 until 2008, González analyzed social and cultural themes including the collateral damage caused by predatory lenders in minority neighborhoods, before the nation’s subprime collapse. He also produced several major projects with significant multimedia components. González’s extensive list of awards and recognition includes induction into the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Hall of Fame and the New York Associated Press award for feature writing.
Contact: Joseph Tirella, 718-960-8013
Hostos Community College: 3 p.m., New York City Center, 130 West 55th St. (between 6th and 7th Avenues).
Commencement Speaker and President’s Medal Recipient: Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., is currently serving his second full term, reelected in November 2013. As Borough president, he has led the implementation of a “New Bronx” agenda for economic development, housing, education, and public safety — in every corner of the borough. The Bronx has seen over $7 billion in new development since 2009, when he took office, including more than $600 million in housing with over 14,000 new units. During his term, Borough President Diaz has provided millions in funding to projects of all types in, including new technology upgrades to borough schools, green roofs and boiler upgrades, park improvements and more.
Recognition: Hostos celebrates the college’s 45th Commencement, and in recognition a group of Distinguished Alumni will be honored.
Contact: Camille Currie, 718-518-4334
Hunter College: 3 p.m., Theater at Madison Square Garden, 2 Pennsylvania Plaza, Manhattan.
Speaker: Arianna Huffington is the co-founder, president and editor in chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, and author of 15 books. In May 2005, she launched The Huffington Post, a news and blog site that quickly became one of the most widely read, linked to, and frequently cited media brands on the Internet. In 2012, the site won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. She has been named to Time Magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people and to the Forbes Most Powerful Women list. Originally from Greece, she moved to England when she was 16 and graduated from Cambridge University with an M.A. in economics. At 21, she became president of the famed debating society, the Cambridge Union. She serves on numerous boards, including The Center for Public Integrity and The Committee to Protect Journalists. Her 15th book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life One Night At A Time, on the science, history and mystery of sleep, was published in April 2016, and became an instant New York Times Bestseller.
Honorary Degree: Klara Silverstein, Doctor of Humane Letters:
Klara Silverstein has had a long association with Hunter College. She holds an undergraduate degree and this year celebrates having received, 60 years ago, her Masters in Education, both from Hunter. She serves as a Trustee of the Hunter College Foundation, having been its Chair for 11 years. She previously chaired the General Campaign of the United Jewish Appeal – Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York and is a founding member of the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York. Mrs. Silverstein devotes much of her time and energy to educational programming and fundraising for organizations such as the National Jewish Hospital in Denver, Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), the New York University Child Study Center and Hunter College Hillel. She also serves as a Trustee of the Museum of Arts and Design. The Silversteins’ philanthropy supports education and medical research, organizations that meet humanitarian needs and the arts. Married to Larry Silverstein for 60 years, they have three children and eight grandchildren.
Contact: Joan Lebow, 212-396-6533
New York City College of Technology: 5:30 p.m., Barclays Center, 620 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Speaker: Dr. S. James Gates, Jr. is the John S. Toll Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland. For his contribution to science and research, Gates received the National Medal of Science from President Obama in 2013. Gates serves on the U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the National Commission on Forensic Science, and the Maryland State Board of Education. He is a strong advocate for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. Gates is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has been featured in dozens of video documentaries. He has a number of “firsts” to his name. His doctoral dissertation at M.I.T. was the first ever at that university on supersymmetry. In 1994, he became the first recipient of the American Physical Society’s Edward A. Bouchet Award, given to a minority physicist who has made significant contributions to his field. And when, in 1998, he was named the first John S. Toll Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland, he became the first African-American to hold an endowed chair in physics at a major U.S. research university. Gates has authored or co-authored more than 200 research papers published in scientific journals, co-authored one book and contributed numerous articles in others. His research, in the areas of the mathematical and theoretical physics of supersymmetric particles, fields and strings, covers topics such as the physics of quarks, leptons, gravity, super and heterotic strings and unified field theories of the type first envisioned by Albert Einstein.
Contact: Denise Sutton, 718-260-5979; or Stephen Soiffer, 718-260-5992
York College: 9 a.m., athletic field behind the Health and Physical Education Complex – 160-30 Liberty Ave., Jamaica, N.Y.
Speaker: Hon. Julian Castro, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, Texas, was chosen by President Barack Obama as the 16th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He was sworn in on July 28, 2014. In his role as HUD Secretary, Castro oversees 8,000 employees and a budget of $46 billion, using a performance-driven approach to achieve the department’s mission of expanding opportunity for all Americans. As Secretary, Castro’s focus is ensuring that HUD is a transparent, efficient and effective champion for the people it serves. Utilizing an evidence-based management style, he has charged the department with one goal: giving every person, regardless of their station in life, new opportunities to thrive. Secretary Castro has also served as a member of the San Antonio City Council. He received a B.A. from Stanford University in 1996, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2000.
Contact: Marcia Moxam Comrie; 718-262-3865
Bronx Community College: 9:30 a.m., Ohio Field, 2155 University Ave., Bronx. N.Y.
Speakers: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, The City University of New York Chancellor James B. Milliken, BCC President Thomas A. Isekenegbe, Vice President Claudia V. Schrader. Investiture of President Thomas A. Isekenegbe: In August 2015, Dr. Thomas Isekenegbe began his tenure as the sixth president of Bronx Community College. Under his leadership, BCC is about to undertake a major expansion of the highly effective and nationally acclaimed student success initiative, Accelerated Study in Associate Programs. Isekenegbe is overseeing the physical transformation of the BCC campus as well, from a major redesign of the central quadrangle to an effort to preserve and renovate the classic Stanford White-designed Gould Memorial Library. He is also leading the execution of BCC’s five-year Strategic Plan, which calls for building “A Community of Excellence.”
Contact: The Office of Student Life, 718-289-5194; or 718-289-5201
Queensborough Community College: 10 a.m., the College’s Athletic Field, 222-05 56th Ave., Bayside, N.Y.
Speaker: Dr. Diane B. Call, President of Queensborough Community College.
Contact: Stephen Di Dio, 718-631-6044 (Office), 917-728-7112 (Mobile); or Alice Doyle, 718-281-5591 (Office), 646-373-0664 (Mobile)
City College of New York: 10:30 a.m., South Campus Great Lawn, 135th St. and Convent Ave., Manhattan.
Speaker and Honorary Degree: Doctor of Humane Letters: Michelle Obama. First lady Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is a lawyer, writer, and the wife of the 44th and current President Barack Obama. She is the first African-American First Lady of the United States. Through her four main initiatives, she has become a role model for women and an advocate for healthy families, service members and their families, higher education, and international adolescent girls’ education. In 2010, Mrs. Obama launched Let’s Move! bringing together community leaders, educators, medical professionals, parents, and others in a nationwide effort to address the challenge of childhood obesity. In 2011, she and Dr. Jill Biden came together to launch Joining Forces, a nationwide initiative calling all Americans to rally around service members, veterans and their families and support them through wellness, education, and employment opportunities. In 2014, Mrs. Obama launched the Reach Higher Initiative, an effort to inspire young people across America to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school. And in 2015, she joined with President Obama to launch Let Girls Learn, a U.S. government-wide initiative to help girls around the world go to school and stay in school.
Contact: Jay Mwamba, 212-650-7580
Borough of Manhattan Community College: Morning ceremony at 11 a.m. and afternoon ceremony at 3:30 p.m., The Theater in Madison Square Garden, 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, N.Y.
President’s Medal Honoree: Lloyd Blankfein, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. Dina Powell, head of Goldman Sachs’ Impact Investing business and President of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, will be accepting the medal on his behalf. During the afternoon Commencement, Richard Brown, Vice President of Philanthropy, American Express Company will accept the President’s Medal.
Contact: Manuel Romero, 212-220-1238
The CUNY Graduate Center: 1:30 p.m., David Geffen Hall (formerly Avery Fisher Hall) at Lincoln Center, 10 Lincoln Center Plaza (Columbus Avenue and 65th Street), New York, N.Y.
Honorary Degree: Doctor of Humane Letters: Lorna Simpson, an African-American artist whose work has been heralded as “refined and impassioned” by The New York Times, achieved national prominence in the 1980s with large-scale works that drew on photography and text to confront the topic of race. Today, she is known internationally for her provocative works that address concepts of gender, ethnicity, culture and identity. Simpson was born in Brooklyn, attended the High School of Art and Design and the School of Visual Arts in New York, and received an MFA from the University of California, San Diego. She started as a documentary street photographer; later she composed her photographs in her studio. By the mid-1980s, Simpson was celebrated as a pioneer of conceptual photography. A decade later, she was creating multipanel works, printed on felt, that showed the sites of public — yet secret and hidden — sexual encounters. More recently, she has expanded to include film and video. She is known for portraying black women in her work, using text to express contemporary society’s relationship with race, ethnicity, and sex. Her work has been widely exhibited by museums including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, the Miami Art Museum, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Irish Museum of Modern Art. In 2007, the Whitney Museum of American Art presented a 20-year retrospective of her work. She was also the first African-American woman to participate in the Venice Biennale. Honorary Degree; Doctor of Humane Letters: Reba White Williams has had a wide and varied career: as an expert on fine art prints, a mystery writer, and a philanthropist. She was raised in Mississippi, Tennessee, and North Carolina, and earned her bachelor of arts from Duke University. After graduation, she moved to New York City, where she hoped to make it as a fiction writer. Instead, she began writing articles — on art, business, and finance. In the following years, she resumed her studies, earning an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 1970, where she was one of 30 women in her graduating class. Back in New York, Williams earned an M.A. in art history from Hunter College and a Ph.D. in art history from the CUNY Graduate Center. Later, she earned an M.A. in fiction writing from Antioch University. Her writing has appeared in American Artist, Art and Auction, Print Quarterly, Journal of the Print World, Print Collectors’ Newsletter, The South Magazine, The Tamarind Papers, and Works on Paper. More recently, she fulfilled her dream of writing fiction; she is the author of four mystery novels. Honorary Degree: Doctor of Humane Letters: Curtis Wong, principal researcher at Microsoft Research, is an inventor and creator devoted to the future of digital media and interactive entertainment. He holds 55 patents in his name, in areas ranging from data visualization and user interaction to media browsing and automated cinematography. As he said in his 2008 TED talk: “I think a lot about how different kinds of technology can be used to deliver information and entertainment that people want.” In collaboration with Bill Gates, Wong conceived and created Project Tuva, which made the Messenger Series Lectures by acclaimed Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist Richard P. Feynman available for free online. In 2008, Wong completed a project that had long been close to his heart: creating the WorldWide Telescope, a free, rich interactive virtual simulation that allows children of all ages to explore and understand the universe. More than 20 million children have used the WorldWide Telescope, known as WWT, to learn about astronomy from scientists and educators. WWT is available in the Hayden Planetarium in New York, the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, and in other cities. Wong has dedicated considerable time to working with nonprofits involved in education and the arts. In 2006, working with WGBH Frontline, he helped produce the online streaming interactive website The Age of AIDS, which explores the AIDS pandemic. Distinguished Alumni Award: Through his discoveries, professor Dennis Liotta has helped to transform HIV/AIDS from a death sentence to a chronic infection in which patients are able to live active, near normal lives. The Emory Office of Technology Transfer estimates that greater than 90 percent of all of the HIV-infected persons in the United States take (or have taken) one of the drugs he invented. His contributions are not restricted to AIDS: one of the drugs he discovered, Lamivudine (Epivir-HBV), became the first drug approved for the treatment of hepatitis B; and a company he founded, Pharmasset (acquired by Gilead Sciences two years ago) developed Sofosbuvir, which has become the first-line therapy for treating (and perhaps curing) hepatitis C. Moreover, in his current role as Executive Director of the Emory Institute for Drug Development, Liotta participated in the discovery and development of another novel nucleoside analogue, EIDD-2023, for treating hepatitis C infections. His research group has also recently discovered the first potent, dual tropic (CCR5/CXCR4) HIV entry inhibitor. He is an inventor on 75 issued U.S. patents, many of which cover the antiviral and anticancer drugs and drug candidates he has discovered. Professor Liotta is also vitally interested in education. In South Africa he has initiated a series of outreach activities aimed at providing the next generation of African scientists with the science, business and legal skills they will need to address their own health care needs. He is the founding editor in chief of ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters (ACS MCL), which was launched in 2010 to provide a rapid communication venue for high-quality letters and technology notes in medicinal chemistry and related fields. Under his leadership, ACS MCL has become one of the preeminent journals for the dissemination of innovative medicinal chemistry reports.
Contact: Tanya Domi, (212) 817-7283
CUNY School of Professional Studies: 6 p.m., David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center, N.Y.
Speaker: Sonia Manzano, Emmy Award-winning actress, writer, and author, who delighted viewers for over 30 years as “Maria” on Sesame Street. Throughout her career, she has continued to contribute to enriching diversity on television, on the stage, and in education. A first generation American of Latin descent, Manzano’s tale is one of perseverance and courage as she overcame countless obstacles to become one of the most influential Latinas in television. In addition to her many contributions to the adult and children’s literary world, television, and the stage, Manzano is also an adviser for the literary New York institution Symphony Space, and is often a reader for Selected Shorts and regularly reads for their adult literacy program, All-Write. A staunch advocate for education, Manzano shares her extraordinary talent to help children to succeed. A fearless trailblazer, she opened the doors for Latinas on screen. Infusing humor and charm into her work, Manzano inspires audiences with her passion, strength, and insight.
Contact: Andrea Fagon, 646-664-8690
Macaulay Honors College: 4 p.m. David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, 10 Lincoln Center Plaza (Columbus Avenue and 65th Street), New York, N.Y.
Speaker and Honorary Degree: Doctor of Humane Letters: Dr. Marion Nestle is a noted food studies scholar and consumer advocate whose research examines scientific and socioeconomic influences on food choices and health, emphasizing the role of food marketing. Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, which she chaired from 1988-2003. She is also professor of sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of six prize-winning books. Her most recent book, Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning), has just won the James Beard award for writing and literature and the International Association of Culinary Professionals Grigson award for distinguished scholarship. She earned a Ph.D. in molecular biology and an MPH in public health nutrition from the University of California, Berkeley. Nestle blogs at foodpolitics.com and her Twitter account @marionnestle has been named among the top 10 in health and science.
Contact: Sheila Stainback, 212-729-2924
LaGuardia Community College: 10 a.m., The Quad at Queens College, 65-30 Kissena Blvd., Flushing, N.Y.
Keynote Speaker: Melinda Katz, president, Borough of Queens. Melinda Katz has served as the 19th President of the Borough of Queens since Jan. 1, 2014. Katz has been a dedicated public servant for more than 20 years. She represented the 29th District in the New York City Council from 2002 to 2009 and throughout her tenure chaired the Council’s Land Use Committee, which, under her leadership, secured public private partnerships that led to the creation of more than 15,000 units of affordable housing, sited new schools and rezoned much of the city. Katz also served in the New York State Assembly from 1994 to 1998 and authored and helped pass 16 laws, including one requiring HMOs to provide women with direct access to critical gynecological services. Katz is an attorney with years of experience in private industry, most recently at Greenberg Traurig LLP and previously at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. She is a native and lifelong resident of Queens who developed her deep appreciation for the arts in education as the daughter of a family with a long history of civic engagement. Her mother founded the Queens Council on the Arts, and her father taught music at Jamaica High School and founded the Queens Symphony Orchestra. Katz lives in Forest Hills, raising her two young children, Carter and Hunter, in the very same house where she grew up. Alumni Speaker: Tiffany Lambert, AS, BS, LaGuardia Class of 2007, a software engineer at Goldman Sachs who works in the Interest Rate Product team developing high-frequency trading systems. Class of 2016 Speaker: Rachel Chambers, a liberal arts Social Science and Humanities major, who has represented LaGuardia Community College nationally as one of the faces of the Heads Up America campaign to make two years of community college tuition-free for qualifying students.
Contact: Elizabeth Streich, 718-482-6131
Kingsborough Community College: 10 a.m., Kingsborough Community College, 2001 Oriental Blvd., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Keynote Speaker and Presidential Medal Recipient: Dr. Tashni-Ann Dubroy, Kingsborough Class of 2000 alumna, and now president of Shaw University in North Carolina. Dubroy, originally from Jamaica, West Indies, earned an associate of science degree and was valedictorian of Kingsborough’s Class of 2000. She became president of Shaw University in June 2015 after serving as Shaw’s Special Assistant to the President for Process Optimization, and department chair and associate professor of chemistry in the natural sciences and mathematics department. Dubroy was Shaw’s third alumna and second youngest president in the institution’s 151-year history. She began her career as a research scientist at BASF, and was recruited to the position of Global Technology Analyst, where she conducted Process Optimization within BASF’s Polyolefin Catalysis market segment, serving as liaison between the business and manufacturing entities. Following a two-year tenure in that role, she served as Chemical Procurement Manager, managing a strategic sourcing budget of $35 million. Dubroy graduated from Shaw summa cum laude with a B.S in chemistry. She earned her Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry from North Carolina State University in 2007, and an M.B.A. in marketing from Rutgers University in 2010. Dubroy is a member of the American Chemical Society and was nominated for membership in Sigma Xi, the Distinguished Chemical Society. She has experience in the recruitment, selection, preparation, advising, and mentoring of minority students who are engaged in STEM- and health disparities-related research projects. She has served as a Principal Investigator and Research Mentor to 22 undergraduate students at Shaw, two of whom were selected to present at the National Science Foundation as part of the application process for phase II funding of a $20 million Spintronics grant at North Carolina State University. More than 90 percent of her mentees are employed in their fields of study, or are enrolled in graduate school. In 2012, the United Negro College Fund National Alumni Council presented Dubroy with an Outstanding Young Alumni award for her service to Shaw, and in 2014, she was awarded the Distinguished Alumni in Science Diversity award by North Carolina State University. Dubroy, who mentors women in science via her nonprofit organization, Brilliant & Beautiful Foundation, was recognized by Cosmopolitan magazine, as a “Fun, Fearless Female” making waves in the science community. She has been featured in Money magazine and Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek in recognition of the success of her entrepreneurial upstart that was borne out of her tenure at Rutgers Business School. She has received fellowship awards from the United Negro College Fund, the National Science Foundation, and the National Organization for Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. Each summer, her foundation hosts a SMART Scholars Workshop at North Carolina State University’s Friday Institute where 100 middle-school girls are exposed to the sciences, by way of making and marketing personal care products to a team of judges. Dubroy frequently lectures to girls at all age levels in the scientific community about pursuing their dreams and approaching the sciences fearlessly. Her company is the sponsor of many science competitions that foster children’s interest in the sciences. She has partnered with the Tiger Woods Foundation, the Girl Scouts and with North Carolina’s MSEN Program to bring hands-on science activities to young girls locally and nationally.
Contact: Dawn Walker, 917-588-6305
Guttman Community College: 10:30 a.m., The Town Hall Theater, 123 W. 43rd St., New York, N.Y.
President’s Medal Recipient: Carol Geary Schneider, President of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU).
Contact: Linda Merians, 646-313-8023
The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in New York City in 1847, the University comprises 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the CUNY Graduate School and University Center, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Law, the CUNY School of Professional Studies and the CUNY School of Public Health. The University serves nearly 275,000 degree-credit students and 218,083 adult, continuing and professional education students. College Now, the University’s academic enrichment program, is offered at CUNY campuses and more than 300 high schools throughout the five boroughs of New York City. The University offers online baccalaureate and master’s degrees through the School of Professional Studies