Activist and #MeToo Founder Tarana Burke to Receive Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

Award-winning Actor Jimmy Smits to Receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award

Brooklyn College will celebrate its 94th Commencement on Thursday, May 30. More than 4,300 graduating students—3,097 undergraduate students, 1,183 master’s candidates, and 61 students receiving advanced certificates—makes the class of 2019 one of the largest among Brooklyn higher education institutions. The ceremony will be held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Students in the graduating class come from more than 125 countries and speak over 80 languages. Fifty-three members of the class are veterans or currently enlisted in the U.S. military and approximately 98 members identify as having a disability.

Tarana Burke is a 2017 Time magazine Person of the Year, a globally recognized civil rights activist, founder of the #MeToo movement, and founder of the nonprofit organization Just Be, Inc. She has been dedicated to helping vulnerable communities put an end to socioeconomic injustice and sexual violence for decades. In 2006, Burke began using the phrase “me too” to draw attention to the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault in a society that often ignores or penalizes survivors of such crimes, and to assure these survivors that they were not alone and could find healing in safer spaces in the community. In 2014, Burke was a consultant for Oscar-nominated director Ava DuVernay’s 2014 hit Hollywood film, Selma, based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by James Bevel, Hosea Williams, Martin Luther King Jr., and John Lewis. Burke will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

Jimmy Smits ’80 is an Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning actor, activist, philanthropist, producer, and entrepreneur whose outstanding career spans more than three decades. He earned a bachelor of arts in theater. Smits has starred in some of the most popular films, plays, and television shows in history, including films in the Star Wars franchise, Anna in the TropicsL.A. LawNYPD BlueThe West Wing, and Sons of Anarchy. At Brooklyn College, he performed in a number of plays, including Of Mice and MenOthello, and Everyman. Smits’ first big network television role was in 1984 on the hit NBC series Miami Vice. His big-screen debut came two years later in the Gregory Hines/Billy Crystal film Running Scared. Soon after, Smits landed a starring role on the hit NBC show L.A. Law, for which he received seven Emmy Award nominations, winning in 1990 for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. Smits will receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Salvatore Casto ’19 is the valedictorian of the Brooklyn College Class of 2019. Casto has a 4.0 GPA and was named to the Dean’s List every semester he has attended Brooklyn College. The English major credits the Honors Academy Scholars Program for giving him a platform to speak about literary advocacy and hopes to teach underrepresented genres and writers.


Brooklyn College Commencement Ceremony


Thursday, May 30, 2019, at 9 a.m.


Barclays Center, 620 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217

RSVP required for press guidelines.