3,100 students graduate from Queens College

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Under a bright-blue sky, 3,100 students were awarded degrees at the Queens College commencement ceremony last Thursday.

Excited friends and relatives packed the campus, carrying congratulatory balloons and shouting out to the graduates.

“Nothing is more fulfilling for a college president than to be able to salute a graduation class at commencement,” Queens College interim President Russell K. Hotzler told the crowd at the school’s 78th commencement.

Last week’s ceremony marked the end of studies for the class of 2002, both undergraduates and graduates, at the Flushing campus.

The graduation also concludes Hotzler’s two years at the college. Many Queens politicians pushed the City University of New York to keep Hotzler on as permanent president. But the CUNY board decided to follow its own guidelines, which forbid the selection of an interim president as permanent president at the same institution and select Dr. James Muyskens, who founded a technologically focused campus as part of the University System of Georgia.

Hotzler, however, will stay in the CUNY system and become interim president of York College in Jamaica this summer.

“The essence of leadership is the responsibility to plan for the future,” Hotzler said.

But Hotzler also told the graduates to be adventurous.

“Never allow yourselves to be limited for what others see as possible for you,” he said.

The class of 2002 was not the only group recognized at the ceremony. Many of the surviving members of the “Golden Jubilee” class of 1952 were called in front of the crowd to be honored.

Marion Coles, a jazz-era dancer who taught dance as an adjunct lecturer at Queens College, and former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman received honorary doctor of humane letters degrees.

“I am so happy to receive this today, and I’m really honored,” Coles said.

Shulman urged graduates to enter public service.

“The U.S. government, while not perfect, remains perfectible,” she said.

In particular, Shulman recommended the graduates take an interest in public education, which she described as the most important resource for immigrants to the country.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg had planned to speak at the graduation but had to cancel his appearance because the ceremony marking the end of the recovery work at the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan was scheduled for the same time.

Several speakers discussed the impact of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on their lives.

“We are clearly in the middle of a struggle on many levels,” said Valerie Lynn Vazquez, a class of 2002 graduate and president of the Day Student Association.

Vazquez praised the student body of Queens College for comforting each other in vigils and working to raise money for families of those killed in the terrorist attacks.

“There is really something striking in the way we responded to this crisis that will be forever etched in my mind,” she said.

“What came into your life because of Sept. 11 has made you a different person than you were before,” Hotzler told the audience. “Our college years are seen as even more precious.”

Rifka Libman-Schulman, a Jewish studies and pre-med major, delivered the commencement address for the graduating class.

Libman-Schulman, who had a nearly perfect grade point average, described a medical school interview in which she was asked why she had decided to attend Queens College as opposed to more well-known, private colleges to which she had been accepted.

“I was a little taken aback, but I had an answer for my interviewer,” she said.

Libman-Schulman explained to the interviewer that not only was Queens College academically challenging, but she had developed strong relationships with several of her professors.

She told the crowd that going to Queens College “was one of the best decisions I ever made.”

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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