Lehman College Students Rise ‘All the Way Up’ at Commencement Ceremony

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a line of graduating students in caps and gowns marches across the campus.
Photo: Brian Hatton

For decades, The Bronx’s story has been scripted by artists and activists alike. On May 30, 2024, two legendary wordsmiths shared their wisdom with more than 3,400 Lehman College graduates as they set off to write the next chapter of their own lives.

Joseph “Fat Joe” Cartagena, a Hip Hop legend and philanthropist, and Jennie “J. E.” Franklin, a playwright best known for her ground-breaking play “Black Girl” (1969), each spoke to the transformative power of storytelling. Both received honorary doctorates.

“Who knows your story better than you? Who can tell it or write it better than you? Grab that poem or that story and go share it with someone,” urged Franklin, whose legacy came full circle as she returned to the institution where she once inspired young minds as a Lehman professor.

Telling his own story of ascent from poverty in the tough streets of the South Bronx, Fat Joe doubled down on the importance of motivation and persistence. “I still believe America is the land of dreams,” he said.

"This year’s honorary degree recipients serve as living examples of the difference one can make beyond their chosen fields,” said Fernando Delgado, Lehman College President. “As our students embark on their own journeys, let this be a reminder that success is more than personal and professional achievements; it’s also the change you create for others and the indelible mark you leave on this world. Congratulations to the class of 2024.”

Adding to the celebration, and for the first time in the College’s history, the names of all graduating students were called out as they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas.

Spread across Lehman’s six schools, the class of 2024 included students like Yarys Lopez and Khea Ireland. Lopez is a political science major whose resilience and determination were key factors in helping her family thrive after fleeing race-based violence in Honduras. She now works with the New York Legal Assistance Group to help families and new immigrants like herself.

Ireland, an international student from Belize, graduated with a degree in speech pathology and plans to continue her studies in Lehman’s graduate speech-language pathology program. She wants to bring critical speech pathology services to her community back home, where there are few practitioners. Ireland’s two sisters are also Lehman students.

Alicia Rodriguez-Allie delivered the graduate address. A first-generation college student from Puerto Rico, the political science major told the story of the personal growth and preparation for success that Lehman made possible. Rodriguez-Allie was active in student life throughout her college career and served as a senator in the Student Government Association.

If you missed the ceremony or want to relive the experience, you can see congratulatory remarks from elected officials here, and a video of the entire event here