The College of Staten Island’s 70th Commencement celebrated the academic achievements of this year’s 3,108 graduates on May 30 on the Great Lawn.
The ceremony’s Presiding Officer, CSI Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. J. Michael Parrish, provided opening remarks, and introduced CSI President Dr. William J. Fritz. In his address, Dr. Fritz noted that both Staten Island and the College of Staten Island are on the rise. After briefly listing some of the most recent accolades that CSI has received, including U.S. News & World Report naming CSI Master’s programs in Nursing and Social Work to its 2019 Best Graduate Schools rankings, he underscored why the College is important to so many people. “We are an access institution that provides an opportunity for people from all walks of life to improve their situation. From certifications through our Workforce Development programs to degrees in our Master’s or Doctoral programs, we offer people many opportunities and that is an exceptional achievement. We help students achieve their dreams!”
Near the end of his remarks, the President looked to the future. “Today we celebrate that everyone graduating has developed their talents at this College and will use those talents to ascend and help others improve their lives. Whether you are receiving an Associate’s, Baccalaureate, Master’s, or Doctorate today, you all have the skills to make a difference in your own lives and the lives of others.” He concluded by urging the new graduates to spread the word about the exceptional educational opportunities that CSI provides.
This year’s recipient of the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters was former Staten Island Advance reporter Jane Kurtin, who played a vital role in shining a light on the horrific conditions that were then in effect at the Willowbrook State School, which at its peak housed more than 6,000 developmentally disabled residents in a facility designed to accommodate 4,000 patients. Her brave efforts on behalf of the patients at the school constituted a powerful victory for social justice and for the rights of the thousands of developmentally challenged residents of the school, ultimately culminating in a subsequent class action lawsuit by relatives of school residents that was instrumental in the passage of the 1980 Civil Rights of Institutional Persons Act and other legislation.
Those in attendance also heard from this year’s valedictorian, Anastasia Tataru, who graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and a minor in Mathematics.
Anastasia, who emigrated to the U.S. from Moldova, discussed the major hurdle that she had to overcome on her academic path, the language barrier. However, she noted that the support and patience of her professors gave her the strength that she needed to carry on and not only earn her degree, but become Valedictorian.
After reporting that she has already landed a job with PJM Interconnection, a company that operates the largest electrical grid in North America, she offered the graduates this advice, “Don’t let yourself be discouraged by anything! Go and apply to the best jobs, your dream jobs. We are students with so much potential, that have worked so hard to get ourselves to this point and we deserve the best opportunities out there. At the end of the day, it is our determination that will drive us to reach beyond our expectations.”
Also in attendance at this year’s Commencement was CUNY Trustee the Honorable Michael Arvanites.