On May 28 and May 29 Brooklyn College celebrated its 89th Commencement Exercises. Keynoting the first master’s ceremony on May 28, for graduates in the Schools of Humanities and Social Sciences, Science of Natural and Behavioral Sciences, and Visual, Media, and Performing Arts, was award-winning author Edwidge Danticat.

“I must admit though that I do feel a little bit guilty about being made a doctor of humane letters today. After all, all I had to do was worry about what to say in the next few minutes, when some of you have been working really hard here for the last two, three, four years,” said Danticat. “But here I am, and here you are, in spite of all obstacles that might have been in your way, in spite of the many doubts you might have had, you are here today. . . .You are here because you are courageous. You are brave.”

The multilingual Danticat, who speaks Kreyol, French, and English, emigrated from her native Haiti to Brooklyn and by the age of 14, published her first work, “A Haitian-American Christmas: Kremace and Creole Theater,” in New Youth Connections. 
Her first novel—Breath, Eyes, Memory—was an Oprah’s Book Club selection in 1998.

Danticat is a multiple National Book Award nominee for Krik? Krak! in 1995, which, at 26, made her the youngest nominee ever, and then for Brother, I’m Dying in 2007.
 She is also the winner of the 1995 Pushcart Prize for her short story “Between the Pool and the Gardenias”; the 1999 American Book Award for The Farming of Bones; the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Brother, I’m Dying; and the 2009 recipient of the MacArthur Fellows Program Genius grant. Her latest novel, Claire of the Sea Light, a Publisher’s Weekly pick, was named “Editor’s Choice” and one of the “100 Notable Books of 2013” by The New York Times.

Dr. Richard Sandor ’62, an economist and entrepreneur, keynoted the second master’s ceremony on May 28, for graduates in the Schools of Business and Education.

“I made every dream ever imagined by anybody thanks to this college, where I paid $12 per semester tuition, no small fee for somebody as poor as me, but for $96 a year I got a four-year education. . . . I also met my wife Helen of 51 years here and proposed here, in front of the library.” Referring to the teachers also graduating that day, he said: “To effectively mold the minds of your students, there is no greater joy and nobler calling,” and to the business graduates: “Go out and create jobs, increase productivity and leave a more sustainable planet . . . Embrace change for it is your friend.”

Dr. Sandor’s work in developing the first interest rate futures contract in the 1970s earned him the title “father of financial futures.” In the 1990s, he helped push for and won federal cap-and-trade legislation that would put a hard cap on emissions and set up a trading system among industries.

In 2003, Dr. Sandor founded the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), the world’s first exchange to facilitate the reduction and trading of greenhouse gases. CCX would become part of a larger Climate Exchange network that would include the Chicago Climate Futures Exchange, and exchanges throughout Europe and the first emissions exchange in China.

Former borough president Marty Markowitz ’70 received the Presidential Medal at the baccalaureate ceremony May 29 for his outstanding career in public service, his dedication to Brooklyn, and his support for his alma mater.

“Class of 2014, never forget the determination that got you here because it should take you further,” Markowitz said. “And remember you got help from others to get to today. Make sure to help others so that they too have a chance to succeed.”

A former New York State Senator and three-term Borough President of Brooklyn, Markowitz co-founded the Flatbush Tenants Council, now known as Brooklyn Housing and Family Services, a year after graduating from Brooklyn College. He founded the Senior Citizens League of Flatbush in 1972 and was elected to the New York State Senate in 1978.

During his 23 years as a state senator, Markowitz led the fight for tenants’ rights and protecting those living in rent-stabilized and rent-controlled apartments. In 2001, he was elected Brooklyn Borough President. He continued to focus on housing, neighborhood preservation, and community development, while working tirelessly to nurture and diversify Brooklyn’s economy.

Markowitz has accepted the new post of Vice President for Borough Promotion and Engagement by the city’s tourism bureau, NYC & Company.

Other distinguished speakers at the baccalaureate ceremony included Dr. Oheneba Boachie-Adjei ’76, one of the nation’s top orthopedic surgeons, who received an honorary Doctor of Science, and Judge Edward R. Korman ’63, who received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters for his invaluable contributions to the American legal system, and the resolution of landmark cases with far-reaching impact.

Shani Abrahams, recipient of a B.B.A. in international business administration, who chaired the student affairs committee as a Member of the Assembly of the CLAS student government, spoke for the class of 2014.

“In the stories of our lives, when the unexpected occurs we don’t have to be passive characters, we can be agents of change capable of forging our own identities,” said Abrahams. “Dream, Plan, Grow, Give Back! Some may doubt our resolve, but when we embrace the lessons we have learned here, and continue to work towards achieving our bright and brilliant goals, we can bravely take up the pen of our destiny and get to work creating the future we want to see!”

Abrahams received the Robert J. Sisti Internship Stipend Award in 2013 and interned at Office of Tax Policy at the New York City Department of Finance, where she is now interning in the Treasury Division. She hopes to become a financial analyst and pursue a career in non-profit management.

Photos: Philip Greenberg and Brooklyn College Staff