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Class of ‘12 graduates as LaGuardia hits 40

T. Harmonie Kobanghe, of St. Albans, received the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. Photo by Philip Newman
TimesLedger Newspapers

With screams of joy from many, a thousand graduates of LaGuardia Community College filed across the stage at the Javits Center in Manhattan in a highlight of the school’s 40th anniversary.

Dr. Sandra Hanson, who joined the faculty in its early days, was the keynote speaker at the commencement Friday. She quoted New York Times columnist Charles Blow, who mentioned a teacher “who lit a fire under him,” and said “teachers did not become teachers to make a world of money. They became teachers to make a world of difference.”

She concluded her remarks by telling the graduates that “one day, your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.”

The professor, chairwoman of the English Department, said “those were the colleagues I found at LaGuardia” when she started at in 1974.

Among the speakers was Borough President Helen Marshall, who got a thunderous response when she reminded the grads that “you made it!”

“As a LaGuardia graduate, you can be a model for world peace,” Marshall said. “Do not forget how to care and to feel and to be open to others who think differently than you. God bless and godspeed.”

The class of 2012 representative and honor student graduate was T. Harmonie Kobanghe, of St. Albans, recipient of the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. She plans to finish her undergraduate work at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and then study for a law degree there,

Kobanghe, a native of Paris, maintained a 3.9 grade point average at LaGuardia. She said she hopes to ultimately create an international organization to help women of the Congo who were victims of violence and war reclaim their lives and gain a voice in governing their country.

At the conclusion of the commencement at the Jacob Javits Center, clouds of confetti rained down on the graduates for the first time in a LaGuardia commencement.

Although there were a few shouts of “Happy Birthday, Mom” and “I did it” from graduates on stage, the good-natured boisterousness appeared to have been louder from delighted families in the audience this year.

The graduates totaled 2,487 with about 1,000 taking part in the graduation exercises.

LaGuardia opened in Long Island City in 1971 and the first graduating class numbered 254 students at the commencement at Colden Auditorium at Queens College in Flushing.

Several speakers referred to “College No. 9,” the impersonal appellation for LaGuardia until it was named for Fiorello LaGuardia, a Republican U.S. representative, colorful, three-term mayor and dedicated advocate of public education.

Of LaGuardia’s class of 2012, 40 percent are age 18-24, 26 percent age 25-29, 14 percent 30-34, 13 percent 35-44 and 6 percent age 45 and over. Among the class, Hispanics accounted for 33 percent, 21 percent were Asian/Pacific Islanders and 15 percent were black/non-Hispanic.

Some 66 percent live in Queens, 15 percent live in Brooklyn, 8 percent Manhattan, 8 percent live in the Bronx and 4 percent elsewhere.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.

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