May 31, 2018

The Graduate Center recognized 420 doctoral candidates and 127 master's candidates at a commencement marked by humor and gravitas.

At Commencement 2018, The Graduate Center recognized 420 doctoral candidates and 127 master's candidates.

“Leave this hall with gratitude, with joy, and — why not — with a glimmer of subdued arrogance for the tasks you’ve accomplished,” Distinguished Professor André Aciman (Comparative Literature and French) said as he wrapped up his address at The Graduate Center’s 2018 Commencement at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall on May 30, 2018.

Professor André Acima

The line was one of many in his speech that drew laughter and applause.

The evening ceremony, at which The Graduate Center recognized 420 doctoral candidates and 127 master’s candidates, was marked by humor and gravitas.

Aciman, author of the best-selling novel Call Me by Your Name and other works, spoke about his own experience in graduate school as a first-generation immigrant and first-generation college graduate who grappled with misgivings.

He encouraged the graduates to savor their success. “Life grants few such moments when we can feel achievement, accomplishment, and success in one and the same breath,” he said.

Kristina Huang (Ph.D. '18, English)

Kristina Huang (Ph.D. ’18, English) spoke on behalf of the graduates. “Our education at The Graduate Center grounded our studies in the realities and vitality of public education,” she said.

She also spoke about her experience as a first-generation American.
“I am the first in my family to acquire a B.A., but I am hardly the first to struggle with the language and habits of an unfamiliar place,” Huang said, recalling her undergraduate experience at CUNY’s Hunter College.

Huang, currently a scholar in residence at Reed College, will start a tenure-track faculty appointment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison later this year.

Neal Kumar Katyal, former acting solicitor general of the United States, and Katharine Viner, the first woman to serve as editor-in-chief of Guardian News & Media, were awarded honorary degrees. The Graduate Center recognized primatologist and conservationist Patricia Chapple Wright (Ph.D. ’85, Anthropology) with its President’s Distinguished Alumni Medal.

In brief greetings, CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken called The Graduate Center “one of the leading centers for graduate study and research in the nation,” and emphasized CUNY’s role as a powerful engine of social mobility, propelling more students into the middle class and beyond than all the Ivy League schools, plus Duke, M.I.T., Stanford, and the University of Chicago.

Chancellor James B. Milliken

Cheers from the graduates’ friends and family punctuated the hooding ceremony. Some graduates practically danced across the stage, and many embraced the faculty member from their department who awaited them at the end of the line of congratulators.

President Chase F. Robinson

Speaking at the end of the ceremony, Graduate Center President Chase F. Robinson pointed out ways in which the contributions of the evening’s three honorands — Katyal, Viner, and Wright — exemplified “the enormous impact of education when combined with commitment to what’s right.”

He urged the graduates, “Make your time and your knowledge count through your own commitment and through your own principles, above all, by redeeming the promise of the public education that you’ve received.”

Read the remarks of

Kristina Huang (Ph.D. '18)
Distinguished Professor André Aciman
President Chase F. Robinson