Manhattanville College Holds 181st Commencement Ceremonies
PURCHASE, NY - Nearly 800 Manhattanville College students received graduate and undergraduate degrees last week in two separate outdoor commencement ceremonies on the campus quad on Thursday, May 12, and Saturday, May 14, the first normal graduation events since 2019.
The keynote speakers were notable alumni, U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D., (Class of 2019) and New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) organizer Toni Smith-Thompson (Class of 2003), who were awarded honorary degrees.
The school awarded 377 graduate degrees in teaching and education; sports business management; marketing; finance; human resource management; business leadership and the school’s first master’s degree in biomedical science. The college also awarded 18 doctoral degrees in educational leadership.
In addressing those who earned their master’s and doctoral degrees, Manhattanville College President Michael E. Geisler, Ph.D., wished them rewarding and stimulating careers and exhorted them to use what they had learned in their various fields to improve the world. “To a Valiant heart, nothing is impossible,” he said quoting the school’s motto from the French, “’À cœur vaillant rien d'impossible.’”
“All of you [here] tonight who are receiving a degree have already proven, in the most impressive way, the timeless truth of this French proverb, or, in an equally famous line from one of the best motion pictures ever made, ‘Nothing is Written!’” Geisler said. “As you leave today, with your hard-earned and well-deserved academic honors, I want you to remember that “nothing is written” for those who do their own writing, and that the ironclad conviction that ‘To a Valiant heart nothing is impossible’ will create a bond between yourself and Manhattanville College that we hope will last for the rest of your life.”
Bowman, who received a doctoral degree in Education from Manhattanville in 2019, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters for his lifelong dedication to social justice and human rights – beginning with his work as an educator with underprivileged youth and continuing in Congress – and his resolve to make the American dream accessible to all. He was elected to Congress in 2020 in New York’s 16th District representing the North Bronx and parts of Westchester County. He began his career as a crisis intervention teacher in a Bronx public school. In 2009, Bowman founded the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action and served as principal there for a decade.
Bowman spoke from the heart about how it was educators who made the difference in his life. He reflected on his early years in New York City when he was not a stellar student and at times got himself into trouble.
“In spite of all of that, I am standing here with you today,” said Bowman. “The reason why I am standing here with you today is because of teachers and coaches and mentors and a mom who was awesome and friends and people who stood by me and believed in me throughout the times in my life when I was going through so much. And you … will now all be those leaders, those teachers, those mentors, those father figures, those mother figures, those other figures, those confidantes, those everything. You will be everything to the children and the families that you serve. And that is a major responsibility. You’re not going to be there to just deliver academic content. You’re going to be there to deliver social, emotional, and mental health support.” Bowman also stressed the importance of service, especially for those who have attained the level of education of the graduates. “Because we all live in a democracy, we have a responsibility not just to ourselves but to our family and to our extended community.”
In a separate ceremony, 417 undergraduates received degrees in arts and sciences, nursing, and education, including the first degrees from Manhattanville in Radiologic Technology. In his remarks to students, President Geisler thanked them for choosing Manhattanville and for their “grit” in overcoming many obstacles to get to the day’s ceremonies.
“Class of 2022: My hat is off to you as well as to your parents and families,’’ said President Geisler. “While last year’s graduating class had a tough final year in college, you have had to put up with COVID-forced restrictions for half of your entire college career, and you have persisted. You have my respect and the respect of my colleagues on the faculty and staff of Manhattanville College and the Manhattanville Board of Trustees. You have already proved your mettle, you have demonstrated that there is very little the fates can throw your way that will derail you or slow you down, or, in the words of a Tennessee Williams play, that there are no obstacles that you could not “jump over, or crawl under, or squeeze through!”
Undergraduate keynote Smith-Thompson, who graduated from Manhattanville in 2003 with a degree in sociology, was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters. Smith-Thompson addressed the graduates and their families. She began by acknowledging current faculty and students who reconnected her with her alma mater. She then reflected on her college years.
“My time at Manhattanville changed the course of my life,” said Smith-Thompson.
Smith-Thompson was committed to social action throughout her college years and made national news long before Colin Kaepernick when she first turned her back on the flag at a Valiants basketball game to draw attention to what she referred to as drastic shifts in culture and increased surveillance and discrimination in the post 9/11 era, an era that she said, “also marked a rebirth of broad protest and activism, the fight for democracy and a clash over who gets to exercise freedom of speech.” Since graduating, Smith-Thompson has established herself as a prominent speaker and writer on the intersection of sports, politics, and protest. She is the Assistant Director of Field Organizing for the NYCLU where she works on projects and campaigns to undo systems of racial injustice, with a particular focus on our public education system, policing, and the First Amendment.
Smith-Thompson connected her activism with that of today’s students. “I am honored to be included in your ceremony today, recognizing you and your achievements, which are now connected with me and mine,” said Smith-Thompson. “This is what it means to live as part of a community. To see our lives as interconnected. To value the well-being of the collective over the riches of the individual. To define safety as communal care rather than protection from danger. To hold success as a journey for all of us, not as a competition with room for just a few winners.”
“This pivotal moment is yours,” said Smith-Thompson. “It is your responsibility to keep it alive as part of our collective story, in a way that those who didn’t live it will properly understand the meaning of. I am excited for all the ways you will find your place in this collective journey and capture it for the next generation.”
Among the noted graduates was Radiologic Technology student Militza De Hostos Gonzalez. Gonzalez, a native of Puerto Rico, began her studies at the College of New Rochelle but then the school closed so she transferred to Concordia College which then also closed. She finally ended up at Manhattanville when the Radiologic Technology program moved there. She persisted and earned a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Technology and was inducted into the Radiation Technology National Honor Society for graduating in the top two of her class. She also played on the volleyball team at all three colleges.
President Geisler in his remarks also recognized the grandmother of one of Saturday’s graduates, Brigid Sullivan, who graduated from Manhattanville College 70 years ago. Elizabeth "Bette" Hinzmann was born in 1930 in Poughkeepsie, New York and enrolled in Manhattanville on a full scholarship in 1948 and graduated in 1952.
Britney Sirota, Student Government President, told students to remember their days at Manhattanville and to take what they have learned and make a difference. “Our college experience only lasts a few years but the connections we make and the memories will last a lifetime. Cherish them forever,’’ said Sirota. “As you go out into the world, find what you love and the people you love. Make every little moment count.”
Photos from the ceremonies can be found on the Manhattanville photo repository:
Recordings of the full ceremonies can be found on the Manhattanville College YouTube channel:
About Manhattanville College
Manhattanville College is a small, private liberal arts institution dedicated to academic excellence, purposeful education, and social justice. Located 30 miles from New York City on a 100-acre suburban campus in the heart of bustling Westchester County, Manhattanville enables easy access to robust entertainment offerings, educational resources, and business opportunities for its primarily residential and diverse student body. The College serves more than 1,500 undergraduate students and nearly 1,000 graduate students from more than 44 countries and 33 states. Founded in 1841, the College offers more than 75 undergraduate and graduate areas of study in the arts and sciences, education, business, and creative writing, as well as continuing and executive education programs. Graduate students can choose from over 70 graduate and certificate programs. Extracurricular offerings include more than 45 clubs and 20 NCAA Division III teams. To learn more, visit www.mville.edu.
Cara Cea, firstname.lastname@example.org, 914-323-1278 or 914-906-9680.
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