By Alex Robinson
More than 2,500 Queens College students huddled under gray skies last week to receive their degrees at the Flushing school’s 90th commencement ceremony.
“Your hard work and countless sacrifices have finally paid off,” the school’s interim president, Dr. Evangelos Gizis, said. “Getting a degree from Queens College is a splendid achievement and you should be as proud of yourself as we are of you.”
A crowd of more than 10,000 parents, students and faculty squeezed into the quadrangle to hear words of inspiration from a number of speakers, including U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Borough President Melinda Katz and City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows).
“The fact you’re the first generation to be born into this new technology means one thing: Now is the time to figure out what that dream is even if it seems hard,” Schumer said.
Schumer lauded the school, saying one of the main advantages the new graduates will have in the real world is the education they received at Queens College.
The school has been deemed among the best publicly funded schools in the country and was recently ranked second on Washington Monthly’s list of “Best Bang for the Buck.”
“My advice to the class of 2014 is simple: Go for it,” Schumer said.
Alumni from the classes of 1944, 1954 and 1964 also gathered at the event to mark the anniversaries of their commencements.
The college’s newest graduates heard from alumna Carol Fredericks Jantzen, who served as this year’s commencement speaker and received an honorary doctorate at the ceremony.
Jantzen is a distinguished nuclear scientist who received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geology at Queens College. She shared a snapshot of the school back in her first year on campus in 1963, when an unknown singer called Paul Simon was a Queens College senior.
Women could not wear pants back then and there were no computers or cellphones. Jantzen recalled a number of major events during her first two years at Queens College, such as President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the World’s Fair in Queens and the spread of Beatlemania.
After she graduated from Queens College, Jantzen went on to earn her doctorate in material science and engineering at SUNY Stony Brook. She has conducted her research at the Savannah River National Laboratory in Aiken, S.C., since 1982.
She left students with the message to always say yes to any task they are asked to do.
“One of the best lessons from my career was to never refuse,” she said. “Join me in not being able to say I can’t. Always say I think I can.”
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.