Brooklyn College conferred the largest number of bachelor’s and master’s degrees and advanced certificates in the past three decades at back-to-back Commencement Exercises held on June 1 and 2.

The total number of degrees awarded was 4,141, the largest number recorded by the college since Spring 1977, when The New York Times reported that “just under 6,000” degrees were conferred.

This year’s total represented a jump of more than 700 above the 3,406 degrees and advanced certificates that were conferred on graduating students last year. This year’s figure also topped any other institution of higher learning in the borough.

Brooklyn College conferred 2,770 bachelor’s degrees and 1,371 master’s degrees and advanced certificates to graduating students. The master’s ceremony was held on June 1 in the 2,400-seat Walt Whitman Auditorium, and the bachelor’s ceremony followed under clear skies at an outdoor ceremony the next morning on the Central Quad.

Both ceremonies were presided over by President Karen L. Gould, who was assisted by Provost William A. Tramontano.

Gould told the master’s candidates that their number represented 130 languages and 180 nations. She said that they had worked hard, but that they also had “your departments and programs, your faculty and family” to thank for helping them along.

At the baccalaureate exercises, she told the graduates, “You have been diligent in your studies and dedicated to achieving your goals. You have met our high academic standards and overcome personal challenges as well. And you have made many friends and found many supporting mentors along the way.”

The college handed out honorary degrees to two alumnae:

  • Dr. Bernice Resnick Sandler, ’48, who has worked for more than 40 years to guarantee that learning and employment in the world of education are open to women and girls, leading The New York Times to label her the “godmother of Title IX.” She was presented with an honorary doctorate of humane letters.
  • Dr. Carol Cooperman Nadelson, ’57, professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School and founding director of the Office for Women’s Careers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She has worked to advance the careers of women in science and medicine, and to promote greater understanding of women as patients. She was presented with an honorary doctorate of science.

The keynote speaker at the master’s commencement was space scientist Joel Levine, ’64, who holds the title of senior research scientist in NASA’s Langley Research Center Science Directorate and also serves as chief scientist and principal investigator for the proposed ARES (Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Surveyor) Mars Airplane — a robotic, rocket-propelled aerial vehicle that NASA plans to use in a search for indications of life on Mars.

“I was influenced by this outstanding institution and its very dedicated and excellent faculty,” Levine told the graduates, paying special tribute to the late professor of physics and astronomy, Theodore E. Smits, who also served as the director of the Brooklyn College Observatory on the roof of Ingersoll Hall.

“I first saw the planet Mars from on top of Ingersoll Hall,” the Brooklyn native said. “Little did I know that I would spend the next four decades involved in our nation’s program to explore the red planet.”

Such a program could only have been constructed, however, by a strong and educated nation, Levine said. He warned that the United States is losing its place as the world’s preeminent leader in the fields of physics and astronomy due to both a growing lack of emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curriculum and fewer students pursuing careers in the sciences.

Barry E. Hill, ’71, served as keynote speaker at the bachelor’s degree ceremony. He is currently senior counsel for environmental governance at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs, and a visiting scholar at the Environmental Law Institute, the nation’s leading think tank in environmental law and policy. He has spent his career advocating for marginalized communities.

Both Levine and Hill received Distinguished Alumni awards.

Two other alumni — both from the Class of 1962 — were honored with a Presidential Medal: Edwin H. Cohen, who spent 40 years in the Greater New York real estate brokerage field and is now a partner and principal of Prism Capital Partners, LLC, and Bernard H. Garil, who has built a successful 50-year career in financial regulation, brokerage and investment management, and established a noteworthy record of charitable giving.

Brooklyn College’s third Rhodes Scholar, Pakistan-born Zujaja Tauqeer, who will spend the next two years at Oxford University, addressed her fellow graduating seniors at the baccalaureate ceremony. Her counterpart at the master’s ceremony was Robert Agyemang, ’08; M.A., ’11, president of the Graduate Student Organization.

“Brooklyn College students defy clichés,” Tauqeer said in praise of her classmates. “It is the Brooklyn College students who face world-class faculty, get good grades, go to work, supporting one or more family members and still volunteer in our communities.”

Among the guest speakers at the two exercises were: Dr. Frank D. Sanchez, CUNY vice chancellor for student affairs; City Councilman Jumaane D. Williams, ’01, M.A., ’05; Simeon O. Iheagwam, ’06, Brooklyn College Foundation trustee; U.S. Senator Charles Schumer; Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, ’70; Iris Weinshall, ’75, CUNY vice chancellor for facilities planning, construction and management; and Ron Schweiger, ’70, president of the Brooklyn College Alumni Association.