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Brooklyn College 2023 Commencement to feature Pulitzer-winner and Professor Emerita Tania León as honorary degree recipient and keynote on June 2

May 25, 2023 Special from Brooklyn College
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ATLANTIC CENTERBrooklyn College will celebrate the accomplishments of 3,809 graduates on June 2, 2023 at 9 a.m. at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. With mentorship being key to College’s mission of student support and success, Professor Emerita Tania León will receive an honorary degree and serve as the keynote speaker and Brooklyn College Foundation Board of Trustees Chair Evan Silverstein ’76 will be the recipient of the Brooklyn College Presidential Medal.

The college will celebrate the accomplishments of 2,871 students who earned baccalaureate degrees, 850 who earned master’s degrees, and 88 students who will receive advanced certificates.

“Congratulations to the members of the Class of 2023, and to their family and friends, for reaching this important milestone,” said Brooklyn College President Michelle J. Anderson. “We are honored to salute Tania León and Evan Silverstein at this spring’s commencement ceremony for their decades of service and dedication to Brooklyn College students.”

Tania Leon. Photo: Gail Hadani.

León, who taught at Brooklyn College for 35 years until her retirement in 2019, was director of music composition at the school’s Conservatory of Music. She is the first faculty member in any of the City University of New York (CUNY) schools to receive the prestigious Kennedy Center award. She was also awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music for her work “Stride” in 2021. The piece was commissioned as part of the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center’s Project 19, a multi-season initiative featuring 19 female composers — the largest women-only commission in history — to mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

León is currently the vice president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Music Division, the founder and artistic director of Composers Now, and sits on the board of directors for the MacDowell Colony and the New York Philharmonic.

Silverstein is the Board Chair of the Brooklyn College Foundation and has served as a Trustee since 2009. He has led the Foundation’s efforts to secure vital support for students. He was a lead supporter of the effort to raise emergency funds for students during the pandemic and has established the Renee and Evan Silverstein Internship Fund at Brooklyn College.

Evan Silverstein. Photo: Courtesy of Brooklyn College.

The Class of 2023 Valedictorian is Chaim Janani, who credits his academic success, and his ability to realize his dream of becoming a physician, to the support he received at Brooklyn College. From an early age, Janani understood the importance of education. His parents immigrated from Syria before he was born, carrying with them a single suitcase. Having had their educations cut short by the need to work at a young age, they wanted their children to have the educational opportunities they did not.

Graduating with honors as a chemistry major, Janani chose to immerse himself in scientific research during his time at Brooklyn College. Since 2021, he has studied the connection between epigenetics and neurodegenerative disease as a researcher in Professor Mariana Torrente’s lab.

Accepted to multiple medical schools, Janani plans to attend Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University in the fall. He has been selected as a City University of New York Jonas E. Salk Scholar, one of CUNY’s most prestigious awards, which includes an $8,000 scholarship that Janani will put toward medical school.

Serving as Salutatorian for the Class of 2023 is Lisa Leopold-Chaparro. Having taught her younger sister and then her own two daughters, Leopold-Chaparro has long pursued her passion for educating children. She is now a co-lead teacher at a private preschool in Manhattan. Drawn to the play-based learning environment, she began working there as an assistant teacher several years ago.

“My love of teaching,” says Leopold-Chaparro, “inspired me to turn the tables and become a student.” She decided to enroll in college at 47 years old and is now graduating with a B.A. in early childhood education. She has been on the Dean’s List every semester she has been enrolled at college. “It just goes to prove it’s never too late to learn, even for a teacher.”

Leopold-Chaparro was awarded the Guttman Transfer Scholarship, offered to outstanding CUNY community college students after she graduated from Borough of Manhattan Community College two years ago. Upon receiving her B.A., she will continue at Brooklyn College in the early childhood education graduate program. She plans to work with at-risk students in public schools.

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