CUNY Graduate Center’s 57th Commencement Honors 520 Members of the Class of 2023

June 5, 2023

Honorary degree recipient George Takei spoke to the graduates at Lincoln Center on June 2.

2023 Graduates at Lincoln Center
Graduates at Commencement at Lincoln Center on June 2.

Hundreds of doctoral and master’s graduates crossed the stage of Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall on Friday to accept hoods and handshakes at the Graduate Center’s 57th Commencement. In addition to conferring degrees on 520 doctoral and master’s students, the Graduate Center awarded an honorary degree to actor and activist George Takei, who also gave the Commencement address.

Takei, who rose to fame playing Commander Sulu in the Star Trek television series and has since become known for advancing LGBTQ and human rights, spoke about being one of the more than 125,000 Japanese Americans imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II and about the prejudice he experienced as a gay, Asian American man.

George Takei at Lincoln Center, 2023 Commencemennt
George Takei

He urged the graduates to avert such fear-based hatred.

“The strength of America is in our rich diversity,” she said. “All of us are the descendants of people that came to America at different times from all different parts of this planet. … That makes our analysis of issues that much sounder and sharper; our diplomacy that much more sensitive and comprehensive; our resilience that much tougher. And that diversity makes our culture a much more vibrant and stimulating society.”

Student speaker Junghoon Park, who received a Ph.D. in Business, also spoke about diversity.

“When I first set foot on campus, I could never have imagined all the amazing people I would meet — hailing from as close as Long Island and Philadelphia to those from Chile, China, Germany, my home country Korea, Nigeria, Peru, and Turkey,” he said. “Our late-night conversations, where we shared our aspirations and exchanged perspectives, have profoundly enriched my worldview. The Graduate Center, indeed, functions as a melting pot of diverse intellects, and I am truly grateful for this.”

Junghoon Park speaking at the 57th Commencement at Lincoln Center
Junghoon Park

Park will start as a tenure-track assistant professor of strategic management at Loyola Marymount University’s College of Business Administration later this year, and he described his decision to take a faculty position at a university that values both teaching and research. He encouraged his fellow graduates, “Let us strive to stay true to ourselves, making choices that resonate with our passions, values, and interests.”

Graduate Center President Robin L. Garrell concluded the ceremony with brief remarks.

“By making it to this milestone, each and every one of you has demonstrated strength and character that prepare and empower you to be a leader: wherever you are and whatever your role,” she said.

Robin L. Garell, GC President, speaks at the 57th Commencement at Lincoln Center
Robin L. Garell

She added, “We hope that your futures will be guided by the same commitment to excellence and public service that has grounded your experience in CUNY and that defines our mission as a university.”

Class of 2023 graduate Catherine Mbewe lost her father to COVID-19 while she was pursuing a Ph.D. in Nursing at the Graduate Center. It felt amazing, she said, to graduate, and she credited the support system she found at the Graduate Center, which included Assistant Program Officer Tricia Plummer and her friend and fellow graduate Stephanie Store, with helping her get through it.

“We're like family now,” Mbewe said. “We’re graduating together, and this is finally happening for both of us.”


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