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Class of 2013 Inspired, Entertained at June 4 Commencement

"I was told that I fought hard to live, and through the unbelievable work of the doctors, and my God, I stand here today to celebrate this moment," City Tech's 2013 valedictorian Dany Salas told a hushed crowd of more than 6,000 fellow graduates, their families and friends.

Salas had been born two months premature in his native Dominican Republic. The doctors didn't believe that both he and his mother could survive, so they asked his father to make a choice between his wife and his son. His father chose to save his mother because he knew they could have more children.

But Salas, who earned a bachelor's of technology degree in computer systems, was a fighter even then and not only did he survive, he thrived. He left his country to enroll in college here, where he faced the challenges of a new language, new culture and new educational system, His story was compelling and inspiring to City Tech's 2,000-plus graduates attending the College's 73rd commencement exercises held on June 4 at Javits Center North in Manhattan.

Click here to read Salas' valedictory address.

The speakers at this year's commencement came from different backgrounds, different walks of life, but voiced a common theme: Education must be a life-long pursuit; it doesn't stop with earning a college degree.

"Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge." — Mark Twain, quoted by CUNY Senior Vice Chancellor Jay Hershenson, who brought greetings from Chancellor Matthew Goldstein.

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge." — Stephen Hawking, as quoted by William Ghee, president of City Tech's Student Government Association.

"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." — Socrates, as quoted by David Hinson, City Tech's 2013 commencement speaker.

Hershenson, who received both his bachelor's and master's from Queens College, drew three rounds of cheers when he opened his remarks by saying, "Today, you finally put English Composition behind you! Today, you finally put Fundamentals of Mathematics — MAT1175 — behind you! Today, sadly, you finally put the Atrium's ground-floor student lounge behind you!"

Introduced by City Tech President Russell Hotzler as "CUNY's force of nature" for his commitment to "equity, excellence and access," he evoked the memory of CUNY student Andrew Goodman and urged the graduates to go to the polls in the fall. Goodman was one of three civil rights activists murdered in Mississippi in 1964 while working to assure that all citizens, regardless of race, creed or color, could register to vote and exercise that right.

Click here to read Senior Vice Chancellor Hershenson's remarks.

He was followed by Student Government Association President William Ghee, a junior majoring in human services. In his eloquent, short speech, he talked about how proud he was to be a City Tech student and then quoted Stephen Hawkings (see above). He concluded with this advice, "Use your degree to create opportunities for those around you."

In a lively address, commencement speaker David Hinson, national director of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), compared the emotions he felt on his recent first sky diving experience to how they were feeling about graduating — fear, excitement and uncertainty.

"But you are lucky because you have a very strong parachute" he told them. "That parachute is a degree from one of the best technological colleges in the world…. And you have the talent to guide your parachute — sharply — in whatever direction your dreams take you."

Hinson, whose agency seeks to expand the U.S. economy and create new jobs by promoting the growth and global competitiveness of minority-owned businesses, told the graduates that "our nation needs you to focus on creating jobs and using the wealth that you obtain in the process to provide a foundation for generations to come."

In challenging them to lead lives that are inspirational and to be the very best in everything they do, Hinson related the story of a man whom he met while a student in the Ivory Coast who had polio and couldn't walk. Every day at 6 a.m., Hinson saw this man crawling up a hot dusty road, his books strapped to his back and blocks of wood in his hands and attached to his knees, to make it on time to his 9 a.m. college class.

"He had no car service, no metro service and no special bus services to take him back and forth to school. So, of course, it is understandable if he could not make it to class — right?" Hinson asked. "No, not for a person that has a burning desire in his or her spirit to achieve a goal."

Click here to read David Hinson's commencement address.

After valedictorian Salas' address, President Hotzeler acknowledged the Class of 2013 salutatorian (second in the class) Jessica Castillo, an architectural technology major.

Click here to read her story.

Provost Bonne August then presented the candidates for graduation and as soon as President Hotzler finished conferring their degrees, confetti in the City Tech colors of blue and gold rained down on the graduates, causing many to shriek with delight and adding to the celebratory nature of the day (see photo).

Special thanks to soprano Teresa Parker, City Tech's director of testing, for singing "The National Anthem" and other works, the Rev. Paul Milholland for delivering the invocation, The Honorable Charles A. Shorter, CUNY Board of Trustees member, for bringing trustee greetings, and David Barthold, president of the City Tech Alumni Association, for welcoming the new graduates into the association.

Commencement photo gallery

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