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Queens College Honors Three Distinguished Alumni from Diverse Fields at 95th Commencement Exercises

​For Thursday, May 30, 9 am

CUNY Chancellor and Queens College President Félix V. Matos Rodríguez will preside over 3,000 degree candidates and their families at the college’s 95th commencement exercises. An audience of more than 10,000 is expected. Overall, the college will award over 6,000 undergraduate and graduate degrees this year to candidates from summer and fall 2018, and winter and spring 2019.​

Campus Quadrangle, Queens College, 65-30 Kissena Boulevard, Queens, NY
Directions | Campus Map​

Media Sign In:
Right of main stage. Reserved seating is available. For parking, arrive no later than 8 am and enter the campus at Melbourne Avenue and 150th Street – Campus Gate Two. Please bring press credentials or a photo ID.​

Alumni Matthew Higgins, Reri Grist, and Dina M. Azelrad Perry will receive honorary doctorates of Human Letters​.

Matthew Higgins ’98 will deliver the commencement keynote address. Higgins, who grew up in Bayside, Queens, earned a BA in political science from the college. He is vice chairman of the Miami Dolphins and cofounder and CEO of the private investment firm RSE Ventures, and debuted as a “guest shark” on the ABC-TV reality show “Shark Tank” in 2018. Higgins also supports parents who are taking classes at the college through the Linda Higgins Empowerment Scholarship, which he established in honor of his late mother Linda Higgins, also a QC alumna. For more background on Higgins, please click here.

Opera singer Reri Grist ’54—a lyric and coloratura soprano sought out by renowned composers, conductors, and opera houses—was a pioneering African American woman when few women of color were accepted as concert and operatic stars. A native New Yorker and child of Caribbean immigrants, she was the first African American woman to become a permanent member of the Zürich Opera and has performed worldwide with leading orchestras and conductors, such as Igor Stravinsky, Kurt Herbert Adler, Nadia Boulanger, and Pierre Boulez. Grist has been cast alongside such artists as Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Luciano Pavarotti, Leontyne Price, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, and Eartha Kitt. In 1957, she played Consuelo in the original production of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, introducing the song “Somewhere.” Grist earned a BA in music from Queens College.

Dina N. Axelrad Perry has enjoyed a long and successful career in the financial sector, working for Chase Investors Management Corporation, Neuberger and Berman, and—for the past 26 years—Capital Group, one of the world’s oldest investment management organizations.

She has taught economics at Pace University and is a member of the New York Society of Security Analysts and the CFA Institute. Perry has been a trustee of the college since 2005, and was honored at the 2015 Queens College Gala.

Khaleel Anderson will graduate from the Queens College’s five-year accelerated master’s program in urban affairs. For the past two years Anderson has been a member of the New York Police Department 101st Precinct Community Council and Community Board 14, the latter an appointment by District 31 Councilman Donovan Richards. In addition, Anderson is on the board of directors of the Rockaway Youth Task Force; a nonprofit organized in 2011, it works on youth empowerment, civic engagement, and environmental and transportation justice. He spent several years lobbying to get the Q52 bus that runs to Woodside in mainland Queens to make stops farther east in Far Rockaway, closer to more densely populated public housing and more people of color. Undecided as to a specific career objective, he has a goal of remaining in the advocacy field. View Anderson’s story here.

Carlos Chediek, inspired by the broadcast of President Obama’s last State of the Union address, joined the New York Public Research Interest Group’s (NYPIRG) voter registration drive, signing up more than 1,700 students in 2016. This led to his role as Queens College ambassador for the Andrew Goodman Foundation and its nonpartisan vote everywhere project, for which QC has the main campus chapter. The son of an official with the United Nations Development Programme who moved frequently, he is proficient in English, Turkish, Spanish, and Portuguese, and has met the presidents of Peru, Nicaragua, and Brazil. He will earn a bachelor’s degree in political science, with a minor in business and liberal arts. After graduation, he plans to work as a paralegal in order to take the first steps in becoming a lawyer.

Haitian-born immigrant Carmine Couloute is the second-ever Student Association president from the Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge (SEEK) program at Queens College. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree, having pursued a triple major in political science, sociology, and economics. Couloute established the college’s first food bank and has volunteered through the CUNY Service Corps in Puerto Rico, helping to repair homes damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. She plans to enter a graduate program in international relations and ultimately work for the State Department as a diplomat. View Couloute’s story here.

Colombia native Diana Cruz, who has earned a BA in economics and international business, grew up in a family of athletes and is an East Coast Conference gold medalist. Cruz, whose mother is an assistant track coach at the college and whose sister works for the New York Yankees, overcame a devastating fire in her apartment building to complete her degree. View Cruz’s story here.

Queens College Macaulay Honors graduate Kathryn Cox has completed a master’s degree in literacy education. She pursued a graduate degree at Queens College following a year teaching English in Cyprus as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. During her two years in graduate school, Cox was also teaching elementary school in Queens. Eventually, she plans to become a literacy specialist who will work with students struggling to read. Her long-term goal is to get an educational leadership degree and go into school administration.

Charusmita Madan, a native of Delhi, India, pursued her lifelong interest in computer coding at Queens College. She will graduate with an impressive resume of tech field skills and accomplishments, including founding wementor, which uses a computer algorithm to match college students with mentors from the tech industry to build a pipeline between existing talent and upcoming talent, especially for minority groups and women. Additionally, with Ying Zhou, executive director of QC’s Tech Incubator, Madan conceived the idea of Women in Tech, a club that rapidly became a magnet for other female students with a strong interest in tech. Madan will be accepting a position in the global technology analyst program at Bank of America, working on technical and business strategy-related projects.

About Queens College
Queens College graduates the most teachers, counselors, and principals serving in New York City public schools. The college contributes to the local talent pool as a powerful economic engine and a leader in tech education, with more computer science majors than any college in New York City. Students from across the country and around the world are attracted to study at the Aaron Copland School of Music. Its renowned faculty and alumni include nationally recognized composers, conductors and performers who have received over 100 Grammy Awards and nominations.

Queens College enjoys a national reputation for its liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional programs. With its graduate and undergraduate degrees, honors programs, and research and internship opportunities, the college helps its nearly 20,000 students realize their potential in countless ways, assisted by an accessible, award-winning faculty. Located on a beautiful, 80-acre campus in Flushing, the college is cited each year in the Princeton Review as one of the nation’s 100 “Best Value” colleges, as well as being ranked a U.S. News and World Report Best College and Forbes Magazine Best Value College thanks to its outstanding academics, generous financial aid packages, and relatively low costs. Visit our homepage to learn more.​


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