Queens College celebrates 100th commencement ceremony

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Queens College students celebrate their commencement at the 100th commencement ceremony.
Photo courtesy of Andy Poon

Queens College marked its centennial commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 30, celebrating a major milestone in the institution’s history.

Queens College President Frank H. Wu presided over the commencement ceremony, which recognized over 4,400 degree candidates. In total, the college awarded 4,465 undergraduate and graduate degree candidates from the summer and fall of 2023 and the winter, spring and summer of 2024. The celebration drew a crowd of over 9,000 as families watched students cross the stage at the college’s quadrangle in Flushing. Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. and Council Member James F. Gennaro (D-24)  also spoke at the ceremony.

Thousands of graduates walked the stage at Queens College last week. Photo courtesy of Andy Poon

Wu addressed the crowd of graduates, saying that they should be proud of their success over the duration of their college career. “Earning your diploma from Queens College is no easy task. It is filled with numerous challenges, and you overcame them all to get here today. Your accomplishments serve as an inspiration to all of us, he said. “Stay curious, remain open to new experiences, and continue to make a positive impact on the world around you.”

Thirty-eight baccalaureate college-wide awardees were highlighted in the commencement program.  Two outstanding graduates were also highlighted at the event.  The graduates included  U.S. Navy Veteran Elias Illescas and Sumaya Kabir. Illescas graduated magna cum laude with a major in physics and a minor in applied physics. Illescas was given the prestigious Student Veteran Leadership Award – 2023 GI-JOBS, as well as the Colonel Gorman and Thomas A. Mattia Scholarships. Illescas plans to pursue a Master of Science in Applied Analytics at Columbia University.

Additionally, Kabir, an English major, is a 2023 Belle Zeller scholar who also graduated magna cum laude. She is a recipient of the Raymond Taylor Scholarship and the Donald I. Brownstein / John McDermott Scholarship. Kabir volunteered with the college’s Knights Table Food Pantry and NYC Men Teach, which inspires more men of color to become teachers in NYC. Following graduation, she plans to pursue a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction, with the goal of working as a curriculum writer for K-12 students.

Julia Chaney Moss (center) with Queens College President Frank H. Wu (left). Photo courtesy of Andy Poon

During the ceremony, school officials held a special recognition of the 60th anniversary of the murder of civil rights activists James E. Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael H. Schwerner. Queens College presidential medals – the highest administrative honor – were presented to their family members Julia Chaney-Moss, David Goodman and Stephen A. Schwerner. Schwerner’s daughter accepted the medal on his behalf.

Two standout alumni, Carole A. Barham from the class of 1966 and Norman Barham from the class of 1968, were awarded honorary degrees at the commencement ceremony. Carole spent her career in public education, heading school libraries in East Brunswick, New Jersey and Columbia High School in South Orange/Maplewood, New Jersey. In retirement, she continues to support her school district.

Norman held numerous senior management roles from 1975 to 1997 in various areas of Johnson and Higgins. After the merger of Johnson and Higgins and Marsh and McLennan Companies in 1997, he became the vice chairman and president of Global Operations of Marsh, Inc., the largest diversified insurance brokerage and risk management service company in the world.  Norman sits on the advisory council of New York City Outward Bound, an organization that works in partnership with the New York City Department of Education, which brings leadership skills and college readiness.

Together, the Barhams established the Carole A. and Norman Barham Family Foundation, which is dedicated to giving money to education, recreation, and social services. The Barhams have created several scholarship funds supporting Queens College Students. Additionally, they established the Carole and Norman Barham Library Endowment in support of the Queens College Library.

Carole and Norman Barham, with Queens College President Frank H. Wu. Photo courtesy of Dominick Tonito.