2023 Convocation: A Little Unorthodox, a Lot of Fun

Share on
A group of students in a theatre celebrating the new semester

Usually a formal affair of pomp and circumstance, Lehman College celebrated its annual Convocation on Thursday, September 21, 2023, with the formality punctured by a palpable warmth and gratitude—and a lot of laughter by the students, faculty, and staff who filled the Lovinger Theatre.

In his welcome remarks, Jorge Silva-Puras, Lehman’s recently-appointed interim provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs and Student Success, announced his open door policy for faculty and staff, and reflected on his positive experience as a new member of the College community.

His gratitude was echoed by President Delgado. Taking the podium, he described a nightmare he’d had in early August, that the College had no provost.

“It was so scary,” he said, laughing. “So, thank you for being here.”

On a more serious note, Delgado extended his gratitude to the Lehman community. “I’m starting my third year, my 27th month,” he said. “And on a human level, this is a great college to be a part of. It truly is, and I thank each and every one of you.” 

“I know this is a formal event, because they told me I had to work from a script,” he added.

The theme of Lehman College’s recent Leadership Gala on September 14 provided the perfect material for that script: “Bold, Persistent, and Unbreakable.”

Among the many ways Lehman pursues its mission, the president said, the College boldly signals “our intention to educate underserved and under-resourced populations. In this way we live our commitment to educational opportunities and social mobility for our graduates.”

Persistence is exemplified by Lehman students, he continued—in particular their “grittiness to stick with it through COVID and complete their studies. Finally, the third term is ‘unbreakable’. Such a beautiful and perfect term to employ in the Bronx.”

“We came out of COVID with a real sense of loss… yet we also came out with remarkable strength, and a sense of looking forward and building on what we have, and seizing on opportunities where we can,” he said.

Three Employees of the Year included Adeleke Akano, a graduation specialist, IT assistant Showkat Ali, and Denny Santos, director of operations and compliance in the Division of Student Affairs. Myrsa Bonilla, administrator in the mathematics department, was lauded for her outstanding contributions, and Lt. Alicia Cruz, who retired in the spring from the Office of Public Safety, received a Years of Service award.

Rounding out the event, Student Government Association President Katiadou Diallo provided inspiring words for the student body.

The morning’s emotional highlight came halfway through the program—speeches by Professor of Music and Teacher of the Year Penny Prince, and Adjunct Teacher of the Year James “Jimmy” Gaine. Prince, recovering from an illness, offered her warm and heartfelt greetings on video. In what is surely a first for the Convocation, Gaine’s emotional remarks morphed into an extended comedic riff that nearly drove the audience to tears.

“Those of you who know me would say my methods are somewhat unorthodox,” Gaine said.

You can catch his shaggy dog story and all of 2023’s Convocation here.