Julia Chaney-Moss, David Goodman, and Stephen A. Schwerner received the President’s Medal, the school’s highest administrative honor; former educator Carole Barham and insurance executive Norman Barham received honorary doctorates

Flushing, NY, May31, 2024—On Thursday, May 30, Queens College President Frank H. Wu presided over the college’s 100th commencement exercises, which recognized over 4,400 degree candidates. In total, the college awarded approximately 4,465 undergraduate and graduate degrees this year to candidates from summer and fall 2023, and winter, spring, and summer 2024.​ An estimated audience of 9,000 was present at the 9 am ceremony, which took place on the college quadrangle. 

Watch a recording of the ceremony HERE and a highlights video HERE. Download honoree and graduate images HERE. Access raw ceremony footage, including honoree speeches and b-roll HERE.

In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the murder of civil rights activists James E. Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael H. Schwerner, Queens College presidential medals were presented to their family members Julia Chaney-MossDavid Goodman, and Stephen A. Schwerner. Schwerner could not be present, and his daughter Cassie Schwerner accepted on his behalf. ChaneyMoss, Goodman, and Cassie Schwerner spoke at the ceremony. Each of the honorees has continued the legacy of their family members by working to advance civil rights. The presidential medal is the college’s highest administrative honor. Former educator Carole Barham and insurance executive Norman Barham, both alumni, received honorary doctorates. 

“All of you, the Class of 2024, should be proud of your achievements,” said Queens College President Frank H. Wu. “Earning your diploma from Queens College is no easy task. It is filled with numerous challenges, and you overcame them all to get here today. Your accomplishments serve as an inspiration to all of us. As you leave Queens College today, I am confident that you have earned more than a degree and a great education. I hope that you’ll take with you lifelong friendships, enduring memories, and the unyielding drive to make a positive impact on our society. But remember, your journey of learning doesn’t end here; it is a lifelong pursuit. Stay curious, remain open to new experiences, and continue to make a positive impact on the world around you.”

Julia Chaney-Moss, the sister of James Chaney, is a minister from Willingboro, New Jersey. She has been a civil rights advocate throughout her life, speaking publicly and appearing on many media broadcasts to discuss her brother’s memory as well as other civil rights issues. Chaney-Moss has worked in the field of human services for 40 years, first at New York University and then at New York Foundling. She joined the ministry due to her strong desire to be the best resource possible for the families and children she was meeting in the course of her work.

David Goodman, brother of Queens College alumnus Andrew Goodman, has been influential in the establishment and advancement of the Andrew Goodman Foundation, a not-for-profit organization created by David and Andrew’s parents that supports youth leadership development, voting accessibility, and social justice initiatives on campuses across the country. Along with his wife, Sylvia, they created the Andrew Goodman Ambassador program, providing extensive training and a peer network to support Andrew Goodman ambassadors, who work to register voters, bring down voting barriers, and tackle social justice issues on their respective college campuses. Queens College is one of 69 colleges in the nation sponsoring Andrew Goodman ambassadors.

Stephen A. Schwerner, brother of Michael Schwerner, joined the Congress of Racial Equity (CORE) with his brother during the civil rights movement. CORE pioneered the use of nonviolent direct action in America’s civil rights struggle. He has marched against segregation and protested the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, was a draft counselor during the Vietnam war, taught classes on the civil rights movement, and helped start the Park Slope Food Co-op. He worked at Queens College from 1963 until 1976, starting out as an intern and ultimately becoming the director of Counseling Services and chair of the Academic Senate. In 1976, he moved to Ohio where he was the dean of students at Antioch College. He later became a professor at the college, teaching a range of courses in education, psychology, the civil rights movement, and the history of modern jazz.

“As we celebrate the 100th commencement ceremonies at Queens College, the Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF) extends its heartfelt thanks to President Wu and the entire Queens College community for the decision to honor the families of Andrew Goodman, James Earl Chaney, and Michael Schwerner with the prestigious President’s Medal,” said Rashawn Davis, AGF executive director. “Queens College’s steadfast commitment to democracy and partnership with the Andrew Goodman Foundation has been unwavering, and we commend their dedication to recognizing those who have profoundly shaped our collective journey. We applaud David Goodman and all the esteemed recipients for their tireless efforts in carrying forward the legacies of their loved ones, inspiring future generations with their enduring courage and commitment to social justice.”

Distinguished alumni Carole A. Barham ’66 and Norman Barham ’68 were awarded honorary degrees. Carole spent her career devoted to public education, as head of school libraries in East Brunswick, New Jersey, and as head librarian in Columbia High School in South Orange/Maplewood, New Jersey. In retirement, she continues to support this school district. Norman held numerous senior management roles from 1975 to 1997 in various areas of Johnson & Higgins. After the merger of Johnson & Higgins and Marsh & McLennan Companies in 1997, Norman served as vice chairman and president of Global Operations of Marsh, Inc., the largest diversified insurance brokerage and risk management service company in the world. In addition to his professional accomplishments, Norman sits on the advisory council of New York City Outward Bound, an organization which, in partnership with the New York City Department of Education, brings character and leadership development programming to students as well as programs that assist students in their college applications and careers. Together, the Barhams established the Carole A. and Norman Barham Family Foundation, dedicated to charitable giving for education, recreation, family and youth services, and health and social services. They have created several scholarship funds supporting QC students and established the Carole and Norman Barham Library Endowment in support of the Queens College Library.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Jr. and New York City Council Member James F. Gennaro also spoke at the ceremony.

Student Kirk Persaud addressed the graduates. Persaud graduated summa cum laude with a triple major in psychology, biology and neuroscience, and biology, with a minor in health science. Among his contributions to the Queens College community, he served as president of the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students and as president of the QC Neuroscience Club. Persaud, who is active in the college’s LGBTQI+ community, served as master of ceremonies for STEM Freshman Orientation. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in behavioral neuroscience at the college next year and subsequently apply to an MD/PhD program.

The student commencement speaker is one of two recipients of the Paul Klapper Scholarship, the college’s highest honor for graduating seniors. It is provided annually by the staff of Queens College and other friends in memory of the school’s first president and intended to encourage scholarly accomplishment, moral and intellectual integrity, and good citizenship. The College Committee on Honors and Awards selects the student speaker based on criteria that include high grades and other forms of academic achievement, leadership, community service, breadth of courses taken, as well as evidence of originality, creativity, and promise of future contributions to society.

At the college’s Tuesday, May 28, Baccalaureate—a commencement-related event focusing on student achievement—renowned journalist and broadcaster Mary Murphy ’81 received the President’s Medal. Recently retired, Murphy created a legacy of impactful journalism during her 40 years reporting for both PIX11 and CBS2 in New York. A Queens native, Murphy has told stories in all corners of her hometown during her career. She is the recipient of 32 Emmy awards and has received praise for her coverage of significant events, including the opioid crisis, the 1996 explosion of TWA Flight 800, the September 11th terror attacks, the Black Sunday fire in 2005, the Gilgo Beach murders and the arrest of a suspect, and the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, Murphy launched regular segments on PIX11 News called “The Missing,” reporting on families seeking their loved ones who have disappeared. Her work assisted in finding multiple people. In addition to her Emmy awards, she has received an Edward R. Murrow Award for writing and many first-place prizes from the Associated Press.

The Baccalaureate student speaker was Mahir Sadad. A Klapper Scholarship recipient, Sadad graduated summa cum laude as a Macaulay Honors College Political Science major. He has been a vocal advocate for undocumented immigrants at CUNY through his work in the Queens College Immigrant Student Success Initiative, CUNY’s Immigrant Ambassador Program, CUNY’s Undocumented and Immigrant Student Programs, and RAISE NYC. He was also a copresident of the Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee. Sadad hopes to obtain a master’s in public administration and work in the public sector.


U.S. Navy veteran Elias Illescas graduated magna cum laude with a major in physics and a minor in applied physics. As a Veterans Administration work-study student in the Queens College Office of Veteran and Military Support Services, Illescas coordinated and facilitated student veteran informational sessions, helping to enhance access to resources for fellow student veterans. In recognition of his contributions to the student veteran community, he was given the prestigious Student Veteran Leadership Award – 2023 GI-JOBS, as well as the Colonel Gorman and Thomas A. Mattia Scholarships. Illescas plans to pursue a Master of Science in Applied Analytics at Columbia University.

English major Sumaya Kabir is a 2023 Belle Zeller scholar who graduated magna cum laude. She is a recipient of the Raymond Taylor Scholarship and the Donald I. Brownstein / John McDermott Scholarship. Kabir volunteered with the college’s Knights Table Food Pantry and for NYC Men Teach, an initiative dedicated to inspiring more men of color to become teachers in New York City. She also works as a college and career bridge coach for the CUNY K16 initiative, which was created to address systemic educational inequities. In her position, Kabir helped over three hundred recent high school graduates develop their post-secondary plans. Following graduation, she plans to pursue a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction, with the goal of working as a curriculum writer who helps develop English Language Arts curricula for K-12 students.

Read about more of our outstanding graduates 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 by Princeton Review as one of America’s Best Value Colleges for four consecutive years, 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​.

Maria Matteo

Media and College Relations