NJCU Bestowed Joint Resolution from New Jersey State Legislature; Tania León and Ryan P. Haygood Receive Honorary Degrees
JERSEY CITY, N.J. | On May 30, New Jersey City University (NJCU) awarded and conferred a total of 1,587 degrees — 1,135 undergraduate, 406 graduate, and 46 doctoral degrees — during its 2023 Commencement exercises held at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Full 2023 Commencement Photo Gallery
NJCU Interim President Andrés Acebo presided over his first commencement ceremony. Tania León, a Pulitzer Prize winning composer, and highly-regarded conductor, educator, and advisor to arts organizations, and Ryan P. Haygood, a nationally respected civil rights lawyer, received honorary doctorate degrees and addressed the graduates. Kudret Ozkaya, a senior majoring in Biology from Clifton, N.J. and Clifton High School, addressed the Class of 2023 as its commencement student speaker.
Assemblywoman Angela V. McKnight (District 31) and Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro (District 33) presented a framed Joint Legislative Resolution by Chapparo, State Senator Brian P. Stack (District 33) and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (District 33) which honored and saluted the NJCU Class of 2023. The Resolution also extended greetings to Interim President Acebo and noted that the strength and prosperity of the State of New Jersey greatly depends on a thorough and efficient education of all citizens and recognized that NJCU stands as a beacon of the heights to which education can aspire and commended NJCU for being an exceptional example of the success that is possible in service to the common good. The Resolution was signed by Nicholas P. Scutari, President of the New Jersey State Senate, and Assemblyman Craig J. Coughlin, Speaker of the General Assembly.
Addressing the Class of 2023, Acebo said: “To the friends and families and loved ones, I wish you could see what I’m seeing right now. It really is probably the most beautiful thing that I’ve seen in a very long time. Promise fulfilled. Grit and perseverance, dedicated and endured. The class of 2023. We’re witnessing something incredible today. The future is presently seated in this room. It’s unfolding brilliantly before our eyes. It’s those perspectives that must shape our promise to our collective future — a promise that you will shape a better life, not just for yourself, but for your community at large. I urge you to resist the temptation to believe that success will be found by creating distance from where you started. Pursue and chase happiness —happiness that will be solidified with purpose, because purpose crosses disciplines.”
Assemblywoman McKnight said: “Let me tell you about your President. He is amazing. He is fighting with you, and he is fighting for you. And it is my honor to stand with him to fight for NJCU.”
“No matter what you have gone through — you may have lost a loved one, you may have had to eat rice just to get bus fare to get here — whatever you’ve done you’re sitting here today. Your higher power has given you the assignment, and you understood the assignment. Because you’re going to walk across this stage and you’re going to receive that diploma, and you’re going to hold it up, and you’re going to be proud and say ‘I did that’. So I thank you for allowing me to be here today, and remember, you have a fighter, you have a sister, you have a mentor, you have a friend, you have an elected official, a community leader in me to stand with you. Thank you!”
Assemblywoman Chaparro noted: “This is a huge accomplishment, be proud of yourself. Life is full of many challenges and surprises, it’s what you make of it. I’m Latina, I grew up in the projects, had many challenges and struggles and became a state legislator representing my hometown of Hoboken, Weehawken, Union City, and parts of Jersey City. Who would have thought, from the projects to the State House. Dream big. Your future is whatever you want it to be. Your future matters. Every student at NJCU — their future matters. This is why your Interim President Andrés Acebo and the entire NJCU family continues to fight hard for the success and future of the NJCU students and their families.”
Pete Hernandez, chair of the NJCU Foundation Board, implored the Class of 2023 to use their degree as a “compass” to provide them with the first step of many toward what drives them.
“In my own life, I used my degree in accounting to help me understand not only the financial information of an organization but to lead me down a path where I met so many incredible individuals — many of them on this stage with me today — who helped me to expand my career outside of accounting. Those individuals believed in me and gave me the confidence to take risks and run toward what scared me without fearing mistakes or failures. Recognize those individuals, and realize that you may have already met some of them, during your time at NJCU. They are your teachers, classmates, roommates, and many of us sitting up here who have seen the passion in your eyes and the desire in your heart. Remember all, and please always remember where you came from and the hard work you put in to get here. Because it is your hard work and all the experiences and struggles in your life that make you unique, I implore you to hold on to them and use them to set you apart from the rest.
Tania León, in her address to the Class of 2023, said: “To see students graduate is a joyful moment for all the professors and families involved in their journey. An emotion that I share. My journey to where I am standing before you today has been blessed by the spirit, encouragement, and support not only of my family, but of teachers, mentors, colleagues, neighbors, friends, audiences, and well wishers. They have been there for me in the good times and in the not so good times. I’m not standing here alone. Beside me and behind me, though you can not see them, are the invisible spirits that have helped me reach the dreams that my family aspired for their little girl. Today as I receive this Honorary Doctorate Degree, I reflect on the memory of those that have touched and continue to touch my life profoundly. On this day of your commencement, each of you is embarking on a new journey. Each one of you is a dream of a grandmother, a grandfather, a mother, a father, family, professors, mentors. They have walked with you along the way, and they have walked with you to this point. You yourself are becoming professionals, teachers, mentors, parents. Families thread in the fabric of our humanity. As you continue on your journey and give service to our societies with your unique talents, you in turn will offer your support, encouragement and powerful spirit that will help others realize their dreams.”
Ryan P. Haygood, left the Class of 2023 with a message. “I think that unprecedented times summon unprecedented people to do unprecedented things. Class of 2023, that is who you are. You are unprecedented. Class of 2023, with your NJCU degree you’re prepared to do what has never been done or known before, and we need you now more than ever… We need your voice, your excellence, your commitment to addressing the most difficult issues of our time. We need your heart for justice, your proximity to our communities, your righteous indignation, outrage, impatience, and urgency. We need your leadership and advocacy to help fill the cracks in our foundations and build a new one. We need you, finally, NJCU class of 2023, to help us design a new New Jersey and I can not wait to bear witness to what you all will create. Congratulations to you, the unprecedented class of 2023 at NJCU. God bless you.”
The ceremony celebrated graduates from the School of Business, College of Professional Studies, William J. Maxwell College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), Deborah Cannon Partridge Wolfe College of Education, and CAS/Education dual-degree recipients. The archive of the full ceremony can be watched on demand at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuqO4ImxZ8k&t=57s.
New Jersey City University is an institution of higher learning dedicated to the development of our students, our city, our communities, and our state. We are a game-changing force for our students and have been recognized as one of the top colleges in the nation improving their upward economic mobility. Whether enrolled in one of our undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral programs at our three locations, NJCU students have access to an affordable, diverse environment, and an exceptionally supportive faculty. This prepares them to go on to become the next generation of workers and leaders who improve their communities and the State of New Jersey.
Ira Thor, Associate Vice President for University Communications (interim) | firstname.lastname@example.org | 201-200-3301