It’s our annual commencement story!

It’s our annual commencement story!
Department of Transporatation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan addressed Pratt Institute graduates on May 16 before picking up her own honorary degree.
Photo by René Perez

It’s graduation season again — a time when college administrators don their fancy hoods, marching bands perfect their “Pomp and Circumstance,” and guest speakers try to walk that fine line between pomposity and profundity.

And through it all sit the graduates, ready to put the partying behind them so they can get out into the workforce and start paying back those student loans by taking away our jobs.

So before sending them out into the rat race, let’s look fondly back on Brooklyn’s big graduation days this month:


Neighborhood: Downtown

Graduates: 1,800

Graduation: May 12

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Law, gave a compelling commencement address encouraging graduates to follow in the footsteps of those before them, noting that over 600 L.I.U. alumni are now serving as NYPD officers.

Valedictorian: Lauren Mackenzie Paxton, BFA in Dance

“We can joyfully invite the questionable future as we hold firm to our past triumphs. Graduating does not solely represent just the successful passing of required credits. No, it is also a testament to our ability to go forth and face the uncertainties ahead.”

Honorary degree: Police Commissioner Ray Kelly

“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. laid out his vision of a ‘beloved community.’ He said that we must be a people measured not by the size of our material wealth, but by the depth of our commitment to economic and social justice. Already, the members of this class have brought us even closer to that beloved community.”



Neighborhood: Clinton Hill

Graduates: 1,400

Graduation: May 16

For the first time in Pratt’s Commencement history, graduation took place at the scenic Pier 94 in Manhattan as graduates received their diplomas while overlooking the Hudson River.

Student speaker: Jennifer Stohlmann

“I’m going to go ahead and say that Pratt had a vigorous, destabilizing effect on my psyche. I’ll take the liberty of saying that your education probably gave you a pretty good psychic shake-up too. We all know what it is like to pull an all-nighter and to forget to eat. Yet somehow, holy crap you guys, we kept it together. So even though Pratt may have taxed our energy, I feel confident in saying that Pratt also gave us the resources to thrive in even the most demanding environment.

Artists are not just thinkers. We do! We create new objects and new expressions. We leave here today in a position of great privilege because we have the potential to carry our vision forward, continuing to produce the beautiful and the useful.”

Honorary degree: City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan

“All of you had the passion, commitment, and drive to get to this position today. I’m in awe of your gifts. We need your talents and skills to translate high ideals into the central elements of city life. The talents you have will help us meet the challenges that we face today, and help design the city we want, and we need tomorrow.”

St. Francis College graduate, Gina Giles, gets a kiss on both cheecks for a job well done at her school’s commencement on May 18.
Community Newspaper Group / Daniel Ng



Neighborhood: Brooklyn Heights

Graduates: 350

Graduation: May 18

Valedictorian, Chandra Persaud, and commencement speaker, Maurice Dubois, both recounted the sacrifices that their parents made to help them get where they are today. They also reminded graduates to never take their education received at St. Francis for granted.

Valedictorian: Chandra Persaud, BFA in Communications

“My parents left Guyana in hopes of giving my sisters and me a better education and enhanced opportunities to learn, grow, and succeed. I never forget their many sacrifices for our family and I took to heart their philosophy about the value of education and their teaching that: while one can lose his riches over the course of his life, his popularity, or even part ways with good friends, education is enduring and yours to keep for the rest of your life.”

Honorary degree: Maurice Dubois, CBS 2 anchor

“As we watched my dad wearing his cap and gown, just like you guys, marching across the stage at the age of 43; not only was it a crowning achievement, it was also a defining moment for his kids. From that day forward, we got it. Education is not optional, it’s the only way you’re going to make it in this world and no one can take it away from you.”

Honorary degree: Kenneth Feinberg, former president of 9-11 Victim Compensation Fund and current administrator of the BP oil spill fund

“I’m not sure all of you graduates fully appreciated the reputation of this gem of a school. It goes way beyond this borough. It goes down to Washington and around the country. And for me now to be given this honorary degree from this great school, this gem, means a tremendous amount to me.”




Neighborhood: Downtown

Graduates: 900

Graduation: May 23

Graduates of the borough’s private engineering school listened to Nobel Prize winner, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, as he urged graduates to “cultivate a core sense of values” for rough times ahead.

Valedictorian: Sean Mahase, BS in Biomolecular Science

“Live your lives to the fullest and have no regrets, close your eyes every night knowing that you are more today than you were when you first awoke, that you touched another person, and contributed to society in a meaningful and lasting way. Regardless of your ups and downs, your struggles and successes, always remember, that as alumni of the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, we are an unbreakable chain of scientists, engineers, designers, managers, inventors, innovators, entrepreneurs, and humanitarians.”

Honorary degree: Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy

“As you navigate your way through life, you will have to meet new challenges in situations that no college education can ever equip you for. When you are old and gray, and look back on your life, you will want to be proud of what you have done. Recognize what was given to you … so that you may do something that matters to you and to the next generation.”

Ray Kelly thanked graduates of Long Island University for their hard work — already!
Courtesy of Long Island University

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