HomeArchitectureCUNY Honors the Class of 2023 at Graduations in New York City

CUNY Honors the Class of 2023 at Graduations in New York City

Actor George Takei, filmmaker Sam Pollard, DJ Grandmaster Flash, composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, New York Attorney General Letitia “Tish” James, and Lt. Governor Antonio Delgado are among the notable speakers.

As institutions hold ceremonies for the class of 2023, more than 50,000 graduates of The City University of New York will attend commencements across the five boroughs beginning this week. Numerous renowned speakers, many of whom are CUNY alumni, will address the graduates and discuss their achievements in business, leadership, entertainment, and politics.

The diversity of the class of 2023 mirrors that of New York City, and soon these graduates will join the ranks of millions of alumni by joining the workforce there. Their CUNY degrees will launch them into rewarding occupations that raise the socioeconomic mobility not only of themselves but also of their families and subsequent generations.

The New York Public Library’s main branch and the Apollo Theater in Manhattan, Louis Armstrong Stadium and UBS Arena in Belmont Park in Queens, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and the Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn are just a few of the city landmarks where the graduates will celebrate their accomplishments. CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodriguez remarked, “Our CUNY Class of 2023 is a fantastic reflection of why graduation season remains my favorite time of year. We should all take a moment to recognize this exceptional class of graduates who improved our campuses and classrooms by their thirst for knowledge, their innate curiosity, and their commitment to achieving both their personal and professional objectives. We sincerely hope that our community will join us in congratulating this extraordinary class of CUNY graduates who are prepared and eager to use what they have learned to improve New York City.

Millions of Inspirational Student Success Stories

Maral Artykova, a graduate of CUNY, is enrolled in the B.A./M.A. forensic psychology program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Since arriving in the United States at age 15 from Turkmenistan, she hasn’t seen her mother. She stated, “I am incredibly grateful to the John Jay and CUNY community for supporting me and providing me the opportunity to study even though I was an asylum recipient. After 10 long years of tears and hard work, I was finally able to invite my mom to my graduation.

Louis Simeone, who is 63 years old and is finishing the associate’s program in human services at Borough of Manhattan Community College, is also among them. He was concerned about his capacity to perform well in class because he had a hearing issue and had only recently started taking school. “With the incredible support of my professor, I learned I have a voice and that voice can make a difference,” he said. Simeone intends to carry on his education at CUNY. He will start the John Jay College human services and community justice bachelor’s program.

There is also Gabriela Flores, who will graduate from Brooklyn College with a B.A. in television, radio, and emerging media. Gabriela served as the editor-in-chief of her college’s student newspaper, The Vanguard, for two years. In an interview with Brooklyn College, she stated, “[Realizing] how limited Latino and Hispanic issues were reported outside of Spanish-speaking networks in America… led me to want to uplift my community’s experiences in spaces where it’s typically underreported or silenced.” The New York Press Association has given Flores’ writing and editing efforts recognition.


A Strong Speaker Lineup

The celebrations for the class of 2023 will feature motivational speakers and prize recipients, including political figures, celebrities, business owners, authors, and a hip-hop legend. Here are some of the highlights. (The CUNY Board of Trustees must still approve recipients of honorary degrees.)

On May 12, Christopher Alexander, a 2019 CUNY School of Law alumnus and the first executive director of the New York State Office of Cannabis Management, will give a speech. Longtime supporter of social justice, he is also the brainchild behind the Start SMART NY initiative to end marijuana prohibition and the primary author of the legislation to legalize marijuana in New York. The Dean’s Medal will also be given to The Honorable Edwina G. Richardson-Mendelson, a member of the class of 1988 who has enjoyed a distinguished career that includes more than twenty years as a judge in the courts of New York and a commitment to justice and more equal representation.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, a Pulitzer, Grammy, Tony, and Emmy Award-winning composer and performer who attended Hunter College High School before enrolling there in 1998, will deliver a speech to the class of 2023 on May 30 and be awarded an honorary degree by Hunter College. The Tony Award-winning musicals “Hamilton” and “In the Heights” were created and first starred by Miranda, who also received the MacArthur Foundation Award and Kennedy Center Honors.

On May 30, Hamdi Ulukaya, an entrepreneur and philanthropist from Turkey and the CEO and founder of Chobani, will deliver a speech to the class of 2023 at Baruch College. Sam Pollard, a 1973 Baruch alumnus who won an Emmy and was nominated for an Oscar, as well as Ulukaya, will each receive honorary degrees. As the first graduate of Baruch to have the title of Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence, Pollard also teaches a course called “Storytelling in Film: Writing for Film and Television.”

On June 1, DJ Grandmaster Flash (born Joseph Saddler), a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, will give a speech at Lehman College. DJ Grandmaster Flash invented techniques that are now recognized as the hip-hop genre’s trademarks, such as chopping, scratching, and changing vinyl records. José Rivera, a former member of the New York State Assembly, will be awarded an honorary degree.
On June 1, Queens College will host a keynote address by Presidential Medal recipient and Lieutenant Governor of New York State Antonio Delgado. Jon Favreau, an actor, director, and former Queens College student who founded the “The Mandalorian” television series and is well-known for his work with Marvel Studios and films like “Chef,” will be awarded an honorary degree.

to June 2, Brooklyn College will confer an honorary degree to Tania León, a renowned professor emerita from CUNY. Leon is a composer, conductor, and educator who spent more than 25 years at Brooklyn College. He was also awarded a Kennedy Center Honor and the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Music.
On June 2, the CUNY Graduate Center will host a speech by actor, author, and activist George Takei, who spent time in Japanese internment camps throughout World War II. Takei, who has more than 10 million followers on social media, played Hikaru Sulu in the first season of “Star Trek” and is a strong supporter of immigration and LGBTQIA+ rights.

On June 2, Letitia “Tish” James, the 67th attorney general of the state of New York, will deliver the commencement address and be presented with the President’s Medal of Honor. She was the first woman and person of color to be elected to the position of Attorney General in New York when she was elected in 2018.

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