A record 2,100 baccalaureate and master degree candidates will graduate at the College of Staten Island’s 29th annual commencement exercise on Thursday, June 2, at 10 a.m, rain or shine, on the college’s Great Lawn.

Erica Jong photo © James KriegsmannThis year’s commencement speaker is Erica Jong, author of eight novels including Fear of Flying, Fanny: Being the True History of the Adventures of Fanny Hackabout-Jones and the recent novel Sappho’s Leap. Ms. Jong will also receive an honorary PhD degree from CSI, Doctor of Humane Letters.

Ms. Jong holds the United Nations Award for Excellence in Literature, and has received Poetry magazine’s Bess Hokin Prize for her poetry and the Deauville Award for Literary Excellence in France. In Italy, she received the Sigmund Freud Award for Literature. Her book Fear of Flying, which was first published in 1973, was recently re-issued by New American Library in a 30th anniversary edition. The book is printed in 27 languages worldwide, with sales of 12 million.

“We are honored that Erica Jong will deliver the commencement address to our graduating class this year,” commented Dr. Marlene Springer, president of CSI. “She is known around the world as a leader committed to women’s rights and freedom of expression. She cares deeply about her commitments, and she challenges us to overcome our fears. Her presence is sure to be compelling, provocative and motivational.”

Representing an alumni association with more than 50,000 members and five regional councils, Ferdinand Alvaro, class of 1975, will also address the gathering.

Alvaro, a senior partner with one of the leading minority-owned law firms in the United States, Fitzhugh, Parker and Alvaro, is dedicated to resolving complex legal problems exclusively for corporate clients through aggressive representation in the areas of environmental law, employment law, product liability, personal injury and general corporate litigation.

photo by Ken BachThe student speaker is Sophia Tamezrian. She is one of six children raised by a widowed mother in war-torn Beirut, often studying by candlelight. She came to America and worked for the United Nations (U.N.) before pursuing her degree. “I believe in the missions of the U.N.,” she said, “and the work they do that benefits people of the world, especially during time of humanitarian emergencies.” She plans on returning to work at the U.N. after graduation.

At 44 years old and with 20 years worth of interruptions to her education, Ms. Tamezrian graduates with a 4.0 grade point average (GPA) in accounting with minors in both economics and finance. She plans on eventually becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and obtaining a masters and doctorate degree in accounting.

When asked about her speech, the Brooklyn resident says it will focus on “my strong belief that education is the key both to personal and professional advancement.” She also says that education is a “crucial component” to creating and maintaining peace.

“I am always proud to hear about the lives and accomplishments of our alumni,” Dr. Springer said, “and I am inspired by the galvanizing determination of our students as they discuss their education and goals. Commencement is yet another step forward in their continuing journey of improving their lives, careers, and ultimately, the world.”

The event’s invocation will be performed by Reverend Bhante Kodanna, Staten Island Buddhist Vihara.

Departmental exercises begin immediately after the college-wide commencement. A reception in the Campus Center for graduates, their guests and the college community will follow the departmental exercises.

For more information, visit: www.csi.cuny.edu.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you plan to attend or send a representative, you must contact Ken Bach at (718) 982-2328 to arrange access and parking.