CNR Holds Final Commencement
May 22, 2019
While the occasion was a celebration of a major achievement for nearly 1,000 graduates of the Class of 2019, it was also bittersweet as the last Commencement of The College of New Rochelle and its final graduating class. The grandeur of New York City’s iconic Riverside Church was befitting the milestone event.
Marching in to the traditional strains of Pomp and Circumstance, graduates from the College’s four schools took their seats at what was to be an exhilarating and emotional ceremony for all gathered in the Church’s magnificent Nave.
Board member Mary Sommer ’71 offered congratulations to the graduates on behalf of the Board of Trustees before introducing Dr. William Latimer, President of CNR.
In his greeting to the graduates, President Latimer spoke about the College’s legacy of educational access and how it benefited those in the Class of 2019 and thousands of others who came before them, urging them to tell their children and their children’s children what The College of New Rochelle meant to them and what it did to change their lives. “As long as you remember that and tell those stories, CNR’s legacy will live on in you.”
Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Special Advisor to the New York Governor for Policy and Community Affairs and former New York State Senator, gave this year’s Commencement address. Exclaiming “What a day this is!” she stepped to the podium and also spoke about legacy, service and how she’d pondered what she might say to the final graduating class as the College nears its final days.
“Then I suddenly realized that while the bricks and mortar will be no more, the legacy, like the Phoenix, is rising to become bigger, better and transformative. For the legacy is imbued in each of us by virtue of our education and the expectation that we will lead and serve. So I admonish you to always remain focused on the greater good. My charge to you is to construct environments that are exciting places, thoughtful, engaging and reflective. Prepare new generations of adults for ongoing participation in the democracy that is being held hostage. Exhibit and demand a morality and a value system that is nurturing and humanistic…ones that translate to social and economic policies.”
Finally, to this last graduating class of CNR leaders, she offered, “Leadership requires that you educate, evaluate and inspire. If you do these things, a new spirit of community and a willingness to serve will again exist.”
Following her address, Hassell-Thompson was the first of three distinguished individuals upon whom the College conferred honorary degrees during the ceremony. In conferring the degree Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, the College recognized Hassell-Thompson as a visionary leader and an advocate for civil rights and educational opportunity.
Also given honorary degrees were Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Dr. Catherine Alicia Georges, national volunteer president for AARP and chairperson, Department of Nursing at Lehman College, CUNY.
Donohue, who has led the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for more than 20 years, transforming it into a lobbying and political force, served CNR early in his career as director of development and later as a member of the Board of Trustees. Following conferral of his honorary degree for his advocacy on behalf of the business community and its workforce, mentorship through example, and his generous support of CNR, Donohue offered advice to the graduates. “It’s a privilege to share in this celebration with the graduating class of 2019, who go out into a world of great challenge and great opportunity. It has been said that demographics are destiny. In this country now, demographics challenge us with far more jobs than skilled people to do them – a great opportunity for you all. Look forward. Look Up. Go on!”
Dr. Catherine Alicia Georges was introduced by President Latimer as one of his “deepest and closest friends.” Her honorary degree was conferred in appreciation for her advocacy in support of safe, high-quality health care for underserved populations of all ages and her role in fostering the next generation of nursing leaders. Also touching upon the importance of education for service, she advised the graduates: “Live your life with passion! Remember the good old times, but always look forward to the future.” Telling them to use their education to ensure human rights for all, she urged, “Please use your knowledge and your voice to make sure that every American and anyone living in this country can live a quality life as they age in America.”
For the nearly 1,000 members of the Class of 2019, emotions ran the gamut from elation to tears.
Daisy Martinez, a long-time CNR staff member, graduated with her second CNR degree, a B.S. in Nursing. “CNR has been my second family for more than 18 years. Seeing everyone here today is beautiful. This is not just a graduation for us, it’s seeing off the College in the best way we can.”
Calling it “a bittersweet moment,” Alejandro Vicenti who received an M.S. in Public Administration, said, “I experienced so many good times here and met so many people who helped me with advancing my career along the way. I hope the students here today will continue to grow and keep in touch with each other as the years go on.”
It’s been said that what lives in your heart lives forever. And so it is for The College of New Rochelle, whose legacy lives in the hearts of the Class of 2019 and the tens of thousands of others who were touched and transformed by their beloved alma mater for the past 115 years.
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