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1,885 graduate from St. John’s University

For Emilia Dorosh the graduation of 19-year-old Gregory Shterin from St. John’s University Sunday was more than just a reason to celebrate -- it was an occasion that marked the realization of a grandmother’s wish for her grandson.

“We are very happy and very proud,” Dorosh said of Shterin, who together with the rest of their family emigrated from Ukraine four years ago to Queens. “Now he has a dream to continue to get a master’s degree.”)

Dorosh said she wanted her grandson, who finished St. John’s with a bachelor’s in science, to graduate from an American university. The grandmother said she and Gregory’s mother paid for his education and he is now preparing to earn his master’s degree.

She was just one of thousands of proud relatives who came out to see the new alumnae clothed in red gowns at St. John’s during its 133rd commencement. Among the other graduates were a pair of friends, Maggie Tsang of Little Neck and Martha Velez of Jackson Heights, both of whom received master’s degrees in toxicology.

“I’m really happy to be here,” Tsang said. “This is my first commencement because I could not go to my high school and college graduations.”

Both Tsang and Velez attended St. John’s undergraduate program, received their master’s degrees Sunday and plan to continue in the toxicology program to eventually earn Ph.Ds. They said the day was one to remember.

“I’m very excited. I did not think I was going to make it this far,” said Velez, a part-time student. Velez said she was unsure if she would complete her degree because she also had to work at a private lab’s toxicology department

“It’s just a beautiful day,” she said.

The 1,885 graduates joined their friends and family on the great lawn at the university located in Jamaica just off of Union Turnpike. They sat and listened as Dr. Ellen Baker, astronaut and daughter of former Borough President Claire Shulman, gave the commencement address.

The Sunday event was just the second of three graduation ceremonies for St. John’s students. The first was held Saturday at the Staten Island campus and the third will be held June 1 in Alumni Hall for 288 graduates of the university’s law school.

Baker and Shulman were the university’s first mother-daughter pair to be given honorary degrees — Baker received a doctor of science degree and Shulman received a doctor of laws degree.

“I never dreamed of becoming an astronaut when I was growing up in Queens,” Baker said. “I did know that I wanted to experience life to the fullest.”

Baker said the graduates should expect to feel insecure about the future and be comfortable with not knowing what the future holds. She compared the students to explorers who “venture into the unknown.”

“The desire for exploration exists in all of us,” said Baker, who told students to set high levels of achievement and always remember to give back to their communities. “Do not lose your ideals in pursuit of your goals.”

Bishop Thomas Daily, spiritual head of the Diocese of Brooklyn that includes Queens, was at the ceremony along with Baker and Shulman.

Rev. Donald Harrington, president of the Catholic institution that was founded in 1870, said students graduating that Sunday had worked hard to finish their courses.

“Today is a glorious day,” he said. “I urge you to savor the moment and enjoy the day to its fullest.”

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156

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