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Lehman Celebrates its 43rd Commencement

June 2, 2011

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The Bronx Journal's "Congratulations Class of 2011!"

Lehman 2011 Graduates

Former U.S. Poet Laureate and Distinguished Professor of English Billy Collins shared his poetry and reflections with over 2,500 graduate and undergraduate students in the Lehman College Class of 2011 during the College's 43rd Commencement exercises held on June 2.

Professor Collins, who gave a reading of his work at the White House on May 11, has been the U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-03), as well as New York State Poet Laureate (2004-06), and has published nine collections of poetry. He has been a member of the Lehman faculty since 1968.

He likened CUNY to "a version of the Statue of Liberty," offering "the liberty to study and learn and graduate with a degree," and he recognized that the graduating students often balanced work and family responsibilities while completing their studies. "You have earned not one, but two, diplomas today," he said. The first is from Lehman College, he explained, while the second affirms that "you have learned how to survive in the real world, and you've done so with persistence, patience, and grace." He concluded his remarks with a reading of his poem "The Lanyard."

Latin music legend Johnny Pacheco accepts his honorary degree from President Fernández.

Lehman President Ricardo R. Fernández, who is concluding his twenty-first year as president of the College, presided over the exercises. "Your struggles and dreams, the pride and sense of accomplishment you feel today, and your future success are all part of the legacy of Lehman College and The City University of New York," said Dr. Fernández. "Your many cultures and languages have been woven into the great tapestry that is this campus and this city."

Erasto Torres (center), chairman and CEO of Ponce de León Federal Bank, receives his honorary degree from President Fernández. To his left is Professor Fred D. Phelps (Psychology).

Michael Hintze, a member of the CUNY Macaulay Honors College at Lehman, who was receiving his B.A. in mathematics and computer science, gave the student address. "We are entering the real world at a time when the country is in desperate need of a lot of internal healing," he told fellow graduates, recalling economic and other challenges facing the nation.

President Fernández introduces student speaker Michael Hintze.

He urged the graduates not to wait for "the leaders of today," but to "turn to each other, the next great generation" to help solve the problems that exist. "Maybe we can be the generation that addresses the real issues that have been pushed aside for far too long." Hintze will attend the University of California at Berkeley's School of Information to pursue a master's in information management and systems.

Dr. Aramina Vega Ferrer, Lehman Class of 1973, receives the Alumni Achievement Award.

Other highlights of the ceremony included:

  • Award-winning Latin music artist Johnny Pacheco received an Honorary Doctor of Music degree "for inspiring not only the musicians of tomorrow but also the students of today, with his lifelong dedication to artistry, innovation, and excellence." His 40-year music career includes nine Grammy nominations, ten Gold records and a number of prestigious awards. In 1998, he was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame.

  • Erasto Torres, chairman and CEO of Ponce De León Federal Bank, received an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science degree "for demonstrating to our students that hard work, determination, and courage not only can lead to personal success but also can make a profound difference in the lives of their fellow New Yorkers." Under his leadership, the bank's total assets have grown exponentially, and he has been instrumental in helping many New Yorkers, especially Hispanics, fulfill their dreams of becoming homeowners.

  • Dr. Aramina Vega Ferrer, associate professor and chair of Literacy and Multilingual Studies in the Graduate Education Department at Mercy College, received the 2011 Alumni Achievement Award. Dr. Vega Ferrer earned a B.A. from Lehman in 1973, an M.S.Ed. from The City College of New York, and a Ph.D. in language, literacy and learning from Fordham University. She is also vice chair of the Lehman College Foundation Board of Directors. Dr. Vega Ferrer urged the graduates to "give back to the community and the institutions that have invested in us" and noted that Lehman College had become an extension of her own family. "I hope it will be that for you as well," she said, and encouraged the Class to come back to the College and help another generation of students.

Distinguished Professor of English Billy Collins addresses the graduates.

Prof. Keith Happaney of the Lehman psychology faculty, who is also a Lehman alumnus, received the "Teacher of the Year Award," and Prof. Ralph Boone of the English faculty received the "Adjunct Teacher of the Year Award." Professors Andrei Jitianu of the Chemistry Department and Joseph Rachlin of the Biological Sciences Department both received awards for their research, and Prof. Nancy Dubetz of the Early Childhood and Childhood Education faculty received the College's Distinguished Service Award.

President Fernández (right) with Teacher of the Year Professor Keith Happaney (Psychology).

Among those offering congratulations to the graduates were Dr. Hugo M. Morales of the CUNY Board of Trustees and Gloriana B. Waters, CUNY's vice chancellor for Human Resources Management. Rev. Dr. John G. McCann, senior pastor of St. Luke Baptist Church, delivered the invocation.

Adjunct Teacher of the Year Professor Ralph Boone (English) receives his award from President Fernández (right).