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Alumnus Adriano Espaillat, First Dominican American and Formerly Undocumented Immigrant to Serve in Congress, Named Queens College 2020 Commencement Speaker
--Espaillat Will Receive the President’s Medal, the College’s Highest Administrative Award, from Interim President William Tramontano at the Ceremony—
January 27, 2020, Queens, NY — Queens College Interim President William Tramontano has announced that Congressmember Adriano Espaillat, a Queens College alumnus, will be the main speaker for the school’s 96th commencement ceremony, which will take place on Thursday, May 28, at 9 am. Espaillat, who grew up in Manhattan, graduated with a BS in Political Science in 1979. In 2016 he became the first Dominican American and formerly undocumented immigrant elected to the U.S. Congress. Interim President Tramontano will present Espaillat with the President’s Medal, the college’s highest administrative award, at the May ceremony.
The college’s Political Science Department honored Espaillat in 2017 with a Distinguished Alumnus Award, the program’s highest honor. Recognized alongside Espaillat with the department’s Distinguished Service Award was alumna Cristina Jiménez Moreta, founder of United We Dream and a 2017 MacArthur fellow, who, like Espaillat, had come to the United States as an undocumented immigrant. Espaillat’s success in passing a 2002 bill that allowed undocumented immigrants to attend CUNY and SUNY schools at the same tuition rates as state residents enabled Jiménez Moreta to pursue a degree.
“The congressmember’s inspiring life story and distinguished career prove what is possible with a Queens College education, exemplifying the college’s motto, ‘We learn so that we may serve,’” said Tramontano. “The success of Adriano, who entered the college through the Percy E. Sutton SEEK Program as an undocumented immigrant, speaks to how vital it is to provide equal access to higher education.”
“I entered public service to make a difference, and I have spent my entire career fighting for New Yorkers, immigrants and their families, and ensuring that the American Dream remains viable for all,” said Espaillat. “I am truly humble and grateful to have the support of Queens College along my journey, first as a student and now as a Member of Congress. As an immigrant who was once undocumented, to becoming the first Dominican American to ever serve in the U.S. Congress, I cannot express the pride and gratitude that I feel and the charge that I have to ensure similar and greater opportunities for the next generation of our future leaders.”
After receiving his Queens College diploma, Espaillat began applying his knowledge at nonprofit organizations that provided legal services to indigents, counseled families of crime victims, and fought substance abuse. He served as a member of both the New York State Assembly and the State Senate, as well as chairperson of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus. 
Espaillat was elected to the United States House of Representatives to begin service in January 2017 on behalf of New York’s Thirteenth Congressional District. As he did in Albany, he advocates on behalf of working and middle-class Americans, promoting social justice, immigrants’ rights, improved health care, public higher education, and fair living wages.
Espaillat graduated from Bishop Dubois High School in 1974. After earning his Queens College degree, he took postgraduate courses in Public Administration at New York University and the Rutgers University Leadership for Urban Executives Institute. Read his full bio here.
About Queens College
Queens College produces more education graduates who become principals, teachers, and counselors for the city’s public schools than any other college in the metropolitan area. The college contributes to the local talent pool as a powerful economic engine and a leader in tech education. 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 more than 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 has been cited for 28 consecutive years in the Princeton Review as a “Best Value” college, 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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