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City Tech Class of 2014 Inspired and Grateful at 74th Commencement Exercises
President Hotzler & Valedictorian Maritza Lopez
"2,674 miles. By foot, by boat, by train, hungry and thirsty, hidden and in silence. 2,674 miles is the heroic journey my mother took with my sister in her arms in search of a better life. My mother's plight gave me an opportunity at a life and an education that she never had," City Tech's 2014 valedictorian Maritza Lopez told a captivated crowd of approximately 5,500 fellow graduates, their families and friends.
As a child, Lopez helped her mother collect recyclable bottles to make ends meet. Her biological father was an abusive drug user who abandoned his family. Despite being ostracized by classmates as a "garbage collector," despite the absence of her father, despite poverty, Maritza recalled that through it all her mother modeled strength: "So I held my head high; I am unashamed and undeterred. Being poor or homeless are not things that define who I am, but they are what made me self-reliant, hardworking and resilient."
Lopez, who earned a baccalaureate degree in Health Services Administration, not only overcame her challenges, she excelled. Her story impressed and inspired City Tech's 1,400 graduates attending the College's 74th commencement exercises on June 3 at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan.
"The greatest gift I take away from being a student at City Tech is the luxury of understanding that I am not a product of my circumstances. Instead, I can pave my own path," said Lopez.
CUNY Vice Chancellor for Research Gillian Small brought greetings from Chancellor James B. Milliken and praised President Hotzler and City Tech faculty for their commitment to teaching as well as enhancing student participation in research. Lucas Almonte, City Tech SGA president, spoke about the importance of living in the present while preparing for what the future holds–after taking a "selfie" from the podium with the graduates in the background.
Dr. Cora Marrett, deputy director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), gave the commencement address, which began with a message of gratitude: "Thank you, City Tech graduates, on behalf of all Americans who stand to benefit from your education."
Marrett led NSF's mission to achieve excellence in U.S. science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education at all levels. And in her address, she emphasized the importance of technology and innovation to stay competitive in the global marketplace. "City Tech graduates expand the talent that contributes to a global storehouse of knowledge in an international realm with which we are inextricably linked," said Marrett.
Stressing the importance of diversity, Marrett called City Tech a "beacon of opportunity" and said "the National Science Foundation is proud to be a partner with City Tech in diversity. It is by no means an elusive goal.
"With one foot in the present and one foot in the future, your knowledge is useful for challenges not yet known. Thank you, City Tech graduates, for developing skills for now and the future, for our nation and beyond," said Marrett.
President Hotzler acknowledged the Class of 2014 salutatorian (second in class) Milica Jevtic, who earned a baccalaureate degree in computer systems, and is a published author and international karate champion. Jevtic plans to pursue a doctorate that would allow her to combine her passions for technology, art, science and business.
Provost Bonne August 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, bringing a roaring cheer from the crowd.
Among the individuals who contributed to making this commencement a memorable day was soprano Teresa Parker, City Tech's director of testing, who sang "The National Anthem" and Brian McKnight's "Win." City Tech Professor Rabbi Martin Garfinkle delivered the invocation, The Honorable Brian D. Obergfell, a CUNY Board of Trustees member brought trustee greetings, and David Barthold, president of the City Tech Alumni Association welcomed new graduates into the association.
For the first time in the history of the College, baccalaureate graduates (1,291) outnumbered associate graduates (1,257), which is the result of the addition of several new BS and BTech degree programs during the past ten years.