Queens College students meet with new school leader following 95th commencement ceremonies

Courtesy of Andy Poon

On his first day as leader of Queens College Interim President William Tramontano met with student leaders over lunch to discuss their experiences at the college in Flushing on Monday.

Tramontano shared his own background, first as a faculty member at public and private colleges, then a dean, vice president, provost and senior advisor to the president at various CUNY colleges.

Students spoke of their classes and tutoring center, their desire to see more paid internship opportunities, and the needs of transfer students.

A cellular biologist, Tramontano graduated from Manhattan College and earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from New York University. Former Queens College President Félix V. Matos Rodríguez selected Tramanto to replace him on May 1, his first day as CUNY Chancellor.

“As provost at both Lehman and Brooklyn Colleges and senior advisor at Hunter College, William Tramontano has repeatedly distinguished himself as a deft and innovative educator and administrator,” Matos Rodríguez said. Having spent five years there as president, Queens College is close to my heart, and I can’t think of anybody better equipped to guide and assist the staff, faculty and students throughout this transitional period than Bill.”

Meanwhile, Matos Rodríguez presided over his final commencement at Queens College on May 30 when nearly 3,000 degree candidates and their families attended the college’s 95th ceremony with an audience of nearly 10,000.

Courtesy of Queens College

Two of the graduates, aspiring CPA Rosanna Batista, and would-be teacher Tameka Edwwards-Hepburn, credit the Linda Higgins Empowerment Scholarship with allowing them to complete their degrees. Both women pursued higher education while burdened with significant family and work obligations.

Matthew Higgins, a Queens College alumnus and son of Linda Higgins, a single mother who faced dire poverty while raising four children, was the keynote speaker saying the school had “affirmed her dignity and self respect. To so many who work their way through school, or who battles struggles at home, or who summon the will to return to college after years of prolonged absence, this is an oasis.”

He went on to become vice chairman of the Miami Dolphins.

“Queens College is a haven for those whose lives have taken them down an unconventional path,” Higgins said. Watching my mother single handedly raise four boys while working, battling chronic health issues and pursuing higher education taught me the true meaning of sacrifice and the value of a college degree. It reinforces that Queens College is a place where the promise of an excellent education is not contingent on means, but on mettle.”

Batista, an Ozone Park resident, said the Linda Higgins Empowerment Scholarship was “a weight lifted off my shoulders.” She had run out of state financial aid.

“The award kept me positive and on the right track,” she said. The native of Kingston, Jamaica assumed serious responsibilities when she was a teenager, when she took on the care and lifelong upbringing of her infant niece. Until her marriage last moth, Battista was a single mother of a son, now 14, and a daughter, now eight.

Edwards-Hepburn held a supervisory position at a luxury hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica but lost it when tourism declined following the Sept. 11 attacks. Her son became seriously ill with what later proved to be misdiagnosed leukemia and she moved to the U.S. a decade ago seeking better health care for him. She did odd jobs and was on the brink of homelessness.

“My family, advisement, the Higgins scholarship, and a part-time tutoring job helped me stay on track,” Edwards-Hepburn said. She became an American citizen last year, graduated with honors last week and she will return to graduate school at Queens College next year.



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