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Hunter’s 212th Commencement: A Great Day in New York City

Click here to view photos from Hunter’s 212th Commencement.

“Today is a great day in New York City,” Ford Foundation President Darren Walker told Hunter’s newest graduating class. As the students’ proud cheers filled Assembly Hall, he continued, “Today we marvel at your accomplishments, your resolve and your resilience.”

Walker’s commencement address was one of many high points in an exhilarating ceremony on January 21, 2016. He began by acknowledging how much he had in common with many of the students receiving their degrees: “I know what it’s like to attend class while holding down three jobs, to know everyone’s name in the financial aid office.”

Walker presented this challenge to the graduates: “Will you right the wrongs of history with your actions?  We all have a role to play.” He concluded, “You are Hunter. You come from one of the great institutions in this country. You are up to the task.”

Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab recounted the life stories, struggles and triumphs of various members of the graduating class, honoring Hunter students’ great diversity, drive and commitment to serve society.

“More than 150 countries are represented in our classrooms,” President Raab observed, adding that families from five continents were there at commencement.

The January Class of 2016 was also distinguished by a remarkable range in the age of its members. The oldest, at 71, was Mariano Laboy, who moved to New York from Puerto Rico a half-century ago. Year after year, Laboy worked to put all of his siblings through college, at the expense of his own education. Now, bachelor’s degree in hand, he plans to start graduate school at Hunter next fall.

Also at the ceremony was 104-year-old Helen Poser Fried, member of the Class of 1931. Fried, a retired New York City teacher was one of the talented few to earn a license and join the school system in the depths of the Great Depression. Expressing deep love for her city and her alma mater, Fried accepted the Alumna of the Year Award.

This graduation boasted three valedictorians: Elizabeth Schneider, Nicola Kriefall and Deena Chanowitz. In her valedictory address, Chanowitz shared her own history of challenges. Raised in a family and community that did not support education for girls, Chanowitz never graduated from high school. Determined to pursue another life, she left her community behind and struck out on her own, achieving success in the restaurant business. With a Hunter degree and major in biology, she is headed to medical school.

Chanowitz thanked her professors and told her classmates, “I encourage you to fall hard, fall fast and then stand right back up and keep on going. You will get where you need to go.”

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