July 2024

Frankly Speaking Banner

Four years ago this month, I began serving as president of Queens College. This was the one college presidency I applied for, here in the world’s borough, the source of our institutional name. I draw much energy and inspiration from the dedicated students, faculty, staff, alumni and community supporters who care deeply about advancing their interests within the scope of our vital educational mission. It is an honor to be here with you.

 

When I talk to longer-term members of the QC community, I learn much from their experiences. In May, Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Patricia Price and I dined with Evangelos Gizis and his wife. Few people know CUNY as well as “Van.” He held leadership positions at Hostos Community College, Borough of Manhattan Community College, Hunter College, and of course QC, where he served as vice president, provost, and, after coming out of retirement, interim president. CUNY frequently consulted him on projects following his “retirement.” I enjoyed hearing his perspectives and insights. 

The end of the semester was filled with wonderful presentations by and for students. On Wednesday, May 29, I made time for the Honors in the Humanities student symposium, “Exploring the Anti-Hero(ine),” in the morning . . .

. . . and the Panorama of Scholarship, celebrating graduates of the Transfer Honors Program, in the afternoon.

Congresswoman Grace Meng is a powerful advocate for the college, and I’m always delighted to see her here. On that busy Wednesday, she came to the campus SBDC Center, opened in 2019 with funding she secured, as part of her tour of local small businesses with SBA Administrator Isabel Casilla Guzman.

That evening, I had the pleasure of attending the Queens Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Benefit held by the Chinese American Planning Council at Terrace on the Park. Joining me in a photo op were New York City Council Member Sandra Ung and US Civil Rights Commissioner Glenn Magpantay.

As always, the college’s 100th Commencement on Thursday, May 30, filled the campus with graduates and their proud families, and I was thrilled to be part of it. Every student has a story. Among this year’s degree recipients was Mary Kellaher Gengler, who returned to QC to complete the bachelor’s in sociology that she started in 1972. In this photo, one of her grandchildren rejoices in that achievement.

I especially enjoyed seeing alumni Carole A. and Norman Barham receive honorary degrees. They are longstanding and generous supporters of the college, who worked with dedication and distinction in their chosen fields, respectively, of education and business.

CUNY Distinguished Professor of Sociology Pyong Gap Min has had a remarkable career, studying immigration and assimilation, particularly the experience of Koreans and Korean Americans. (His inspiring academic journey was covered by QView 160 last summer.) Colleagues and friends turned out for his retirement party on Wednesday, June 5, in the Faculty and Staff Lounge.

The leadership team of Academic Affairs gathered on June 5 for their second annual Summer Plunge, a planning retreat.

Meanwhile, a QC delegation went to John Jay College for CUNY’s annual MWBE / SDVOB Procurement Conference. (The acronyms mean, respectively, minority- and women-owned businesses and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses.) Thanks to all!

A benefit of my position is that I get invited to many special events on campus. This year’s student celebrations extended into June. The Chisholm Leadership Fellowship, named for groundbreaking New York legislator and presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm, saluted its graduates on June 6 . . .

. . . and the Transfer Honors Program marked its tenth year on June 7.

The Quad bloomed with all the colors of the rainbow as Queens College hosted the seventh annual CUNY Pridefest on June 7. Everyone had a wonderful afternoon and beverage sales raised funds for the AIDS Center of Queens County. I want to acknowledge Pridefest’s sponsors: the New York City Council, especially the office of Speaker Adrienne Adams and the council’s LGBTQIA+ Caucus; the office of Mayor Eric Adams; Vishnick McGovern Milizio Attorneys at Law; LGBTQIAA+ Programs at Queens College; and LaGuardia Community College. I also thank all the people on campus who helped make Pridefest happen: the Queens College Student Pride Team; the Queens College Gender, Love and Sexuality Alliance; the Queens College Hispanic Club; the Queens College Alliance of Latin American Students; the Queens College Committee for Disabled Students, and of course, Student Life Events Manager and LGBTQIAA+ Programs Coordinator JC Carlson.

Big events on campus, particularly Commencement and related activities, put extra demands on the staffs of Buildings and Grounds and Public Safety. My office expressed its appreciation to these valuable employees at a pair of breakfast receptions on June 12.

It’s a privilege to show first-time visitors around the college. On June 12, I welcomed Deputy Consul General Kazuya Mori of the Consulate General of Japan in New York to campus.

Six days later, my guest was Jessica Grasso, the newcomer deputy commissioner of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

From left: Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Jennifer Jarvis, Interim Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Sean Pierce, Associate Provost for Innovation and Student Success Nathalia Holtzman, me, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Deputy Commissioner Jessica Grasso, Director of Athletics and Recreation Rob Twible, Vice President for Communications and Marketing and Senior Advisor to the President Jay Hershenson.

June 2024 marked the 60th anniversary of the murders of James Chaney, QC student Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner—the namesakes of our clock tower—who were killed in Mississippi for their work registering Black voters during Freedom Summer. (We honored the slain activists’ siblings Julia Chaney-Moss, David Goodman, and Stephen Schwerner at Commencement for their lifelong commitment to social justice. I presented the college’s highest administrative honor, the President’s Medal, to the three family members. C Cassie Schwerner, Stephen’s daughter, accepted his award.) Drawing on in-house materials, Annie Tummino, head of Special Collections and Archives at Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library, gave a compelling virtual talk about Queens College and Mississippi Freedom Summer on June 13. If you missed the lecture, organized by Annie and the Office of Alumni Relations, you can watch it here.

Drama, Theatre & Dance Production Manager Ralph Carhart, a playwright, revisited this history in his latest work, The Invaders: A Freedom Summer Play. Appropriately, The Invaders had its premiere with a staged reading on campus I attended on June 18, followed by a talkback with David Goodman and Stephen Schwerner. The Andrew Goodman Foundation, which the Goodman family created to carry on Andy’s legacy, produced the play.

From left: Steven Schwerner, David Goodman, and Ralph Carhart participate in a talkback after the play.

In another example of politically charged art, the Queens College Art Center presented The Third Party, an immersive exploration of humanitarian crises stemming from wars. The interactive exhibition was created by performance artist Hsiao-Chu (Julia) Hsia and curated by Tzu-Ying (Naomi) Chan. 

The Louis Armstrong House Museum (LAHM) and the Louis Armstrong Center are soaring in many ways. I’m happy to report that LAHM’s gala on Tuesday, June 25—held at the Ascent Lounge and Dizzy’s Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center—was a sold-out affair, raising funds for the museum and featuring dynamic performance. Take some time to visit this summer.

From left: Riley Mulherkar, LAHM Director of Programs Bruce Harris, and Jon-Erik Kellso share a chorus.


Photo by Grayson Dantzic

Louise Chazen Banon, David Chazen, and Kathy Chazen joined their mother, Simona Chazen—widow of Jerome ("Jerry") Chazen, who served as chair and vice chair of the Louis Armstrong House Museum Board of Trustees for many years—at the gala.


Photo by Grayson Dantzic

On June 27, I was pleased to host a visit by Connecticut College Dean of Faculty and Chief Academic Officer Danielle Egan, who is associated with a fellows program sponsored by the American Council on Education.

Yesterday—Monday, July 1—CUNY School of Public Health & Health Policy Dean Ayman El-Mohandes and his team visited Queens College. Over lunch, we discussed potential collaborations, including opportunities for QC undergraduates to take both in-person and on-line courses. We are following up with great enthusiasm.

From left: Vice President for Communications and Marketing and Senior Advisor to the President Jay Hershenson; Barry Commoner Center Director of Clinical Screening and Outreach at the Worker Health Protection Program Jonathan Corbin; CUNY School of Public Health & Health Policy Executive Director of Academic Strategy and Operations Robyn Gertner; Environmental, Occupational, and Geospatial Health Sciences Professor Brian Pavilonis; me, Biology Professor John Dennehy; CUNY School of Public Health & Health Policy Dean Ayman El-Mohandes, Mathematics and Natural Sciences Dean Daniel Weinstein, Associate Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs Maria DeLongoria, Associate Provost for Innovation and Student Success Nathalia Holtzman, Research Professor Holger Eisl

Congratulations are in order for Joshua Brumberg (Psychology) and Theresa Gurl (SEYS). Joshua was just named president of the CUNY Graduate Center; he has been serving in an interim capacity since October. Terry has been appointed Provost's Diversity Faculty Fellow for 2024-2025. She will work directly with Associate Provost for Innovation and Student Success Nathalia Holtzman and relevant department chairs to close achievement gaps in courses with high rates of Ds, Fs, withdrawals, and incompletes.

Joshua Brumberg

Theresa Gurl

Interim General Counsel Judith Massis-Sanchez has left her position at Queens College. I am deeply grateful for her exemplary service to this campus and wish her every success in Vermont. Annette Durant will return to QC as interim general counsel. Annette is known to many on campus—she spent several years here as interim chief diversity officer and Title IX coordinator. A search is underway for a permanent general counsel and should be completed later this summer.  

PS: During the summer, you can hear outstanding musicians in free programs all over the borough.


A series inspired by the Queens Jazz Trail Map got started on Thursday, June 27, in Archie Spigner Park with a set by the Antonio Hart Quartet. (Antonio is on the jazz faculty of the Aaron Copland School of Music.) I much enjoyed the great talents on display. For the rest of the lineup, visit the Queens Jazz Trail Concert Series website. This series is presented by Kupferberg Center for the Arts, Flushing Town Hall, and the Louis Armstrong House Museum, in partnership with the Queens Parks Department and Queens Rising. (To learn more about other arts programming taking place this summer through a collaboration between the college and the NYC Parks Department, see this article Queens College and NYC Parks launch borough-wide cultural initiative with free events and workshops – QNS in QNS.)


Live at the Gantries will return to Gantry State Park on Tuesday, July 9, at 7 pm with a show by Latin Grammy-winning artist Cheo. Concerts will take place rain or shine on Tuesdays through August 13. Live at the Gantries is supported by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and the Mathis-Pfohl Foundation. Season support for all Kupferberg activities is provided by New York Community Bank and Resorts World NYC. This program is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, The Howard Gilman Foundation, and The Max and Selma Kupferberg Family Foundation.


That’s a wrap, as they say. Please accept my best wishes for an enjoyable and safe summer! 


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