Touro College’s Division of Graduate Studies held commencement ceremonies for 2,264 candidates for master’s degrees or advanced certificates from six graduate schools at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall on June 12.
The audience of approximately 2,700 included the degree candidates from the graduate schools of business, education, Jewish studies, psychology, social work, and technology along with parents, well-wishers, and Touro administrators, faculty, and staff.
The program began with an invocation by Rabbi Moshe D. Krupka, executive vice president of the Touro College and University System, who spoke solemnly of the passing in May of Dr. Anthony J. Polemeni, former vice president of the graduate division. He then announced on behalf of President and CEO Dr. Alan Kadish the appointment of Dr. Nadja Graff, who has been serving as interim vice president since Dr. Polemeni stepped down nearly a year ago, to the position of vice president.
“Dr. Polemeni was an outstanding educator, leader, colleague, and a friend. He nurtured and led his Touro family, and his absence is felt by every one of his colleagues. Since he took leave of us we have asked ourselves, ‘How does one replace the irreplaceable?’”
Rabbi Krupka said Dr. Graff has served in the interim with “grace, professionalism, creativity, and vision” and noted she has been with Touro since 1980, when she began as an academic coordinator in the physician assistant program.
Dr. Graff then took to the podium to welcome the Class of 2014 and introduce the deans of the six graduate schools: Sabra Brock, Ph.D. (Business); LaMar Miller, Ph.D. (Education); Michael Shmidman, Ph.D. (Jewish Studies); Richard Waxman, Ph.D. (Psychology); Steven Huberman, Ph.D. (Social Work); and Issac Herskowitz, Ph.D. (Technology).
Vice President Graff told the Class of 2014, “As you join the practitioners and policymakers in your fields, accept the challenges of the day. Know you have the gifts to make a difference. Go forward and help others to reach their goals, and stay committed to reaching your goals.”
The afternoon’s commencement speaker, Dr. Jeffrey Gardere, assistant professor and course director at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harlem, gave a motivational speech, reminding the graduates of numerous problems facing America and the world—from global warming to hate crimes to poor treatment of military veterans.
“All is not lost because we have a not-so-secret but powerful weapon—we have you,” he told the graduates. “Your education has prepared you for this. Whether you are aware of it or not, Touro’s principles are at the foundation of your education. Touro is unique. The Touro education is about service. We expect you to utilize your excellent education and keen intellect to continue in the Touro tradition.”
Each dean then introduced a student speaker who addressed the assembly on behalf of their peers. The speakers were: Lorinda Moore (Business); Cheryl Lee (Education); Moishy Gerstel (Jewish Studies); Talya Honig (Psychology); Julie Jimenez (Social Work); and Loucas Karipis (Technology).
Lorinda Moore from the Graduate School of Business brought the house to its feet with her rousing remarks. Moore earned a bachelor’s degree from Touro in 2010. She talked about how she used her strength and determination to get her through three major health crises and other challenges to earn her master’s in human resource management at the business school. Ms. Moore, who writes poetry and performs on radio programs, plans to use her new degree to help people in her neighborhood start businesses and help homeless people get out of shelters.
“You cannot let obstacles stop you. I made it to Touro and I was grateful. The people here are so important. Touro became part of my family,” she said. “Do what you love to do. You are supposed to make a difference. You’ve heard of the U.S. Air Force? You are the Touro Armed Forces.” v