Caps and Gowns

Grads throw obstacles — and caps — to the wind


Graduation season kicked off May 18, when hundreds of College of Mount Saint Vincent students gathered on the school’s lawn in black caps and gowns against the backdrop of the Hudson River.

Vikki Pryor, the first African-American female CEO of a life insurance company, addressed the crowd. She urged them to count their blessings and tune out ominous predictions about the world’s future.

“It does not matter as you graduate that our economy is troubled. You are the new economy. It does not matter that our world is not in peace. You are the new peacemakers. It does not matter that our world is plagued with sickness and poverty. You are the designers of newfound wellness and prosperity,” she said.

Then, one by one, students walked across the stage and received a diploma from President Charles Flynn Jr. 

At Manhattan College’s commencement on May 19, valedictorian Perry Rizopoulos spoke before 700 of his peers. Mr. Rizopoulos credited the campus community with inspiring him to create Save Your City, a company that began donating one shirt to someone in need for each shirt purchased and now donates clothes, books and musical instruments as well.

Fanta Conde, 23, of Kingsbridge, was valedictorian at City University of New York Baruch College. She addressed that school’s graduation ceremony on May 30.

She said that although she had learned some English at the international high school she attended in her native Guinea, Ms. Conde said her visa prevented her from immediately applying to college. She enrolled herself in a GED program, where she honed her English and earned a city-certified diploma. Ms. Conde studied finance and will begin working as a business analyst for BlackRock this summer.

“It’s a very competitive school. I was surprised, but very happy,” she said of the valedictorian title. “I basically spoke about how we have to be flexible and remain focused … This degree that we’re earning right now really doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t guarantee anything. We have to make something out of it.”

Page 1 / 2