Commencement Beckons for Class of 2015

On Wednesday, June 3, more than 3,000 students became the newest John Jay alumni when they crossed the stage at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden for the Colleges 50th annual Commencement ceremonies.

"For almost 50 years, John Jay students and alumni from across disciplines have made a difference locally, nationally and abroad,” said President Jeremy Travis. "We know our newest graduates will make their own mark as fierce advocates for justice."

The graduating class comprised 1,237 males and 1,852 females, ranging in age from 19-year-old Jason Colin to 63-year-old Jeff Smith. There were 2,613 bachelor's degrees awarded, along with 531 master's degrees. The class also included 126 military veterans and 396 international students representing 83 countries.

Five sibling pairs are members of the graduating class, including Gurjinder and Baljeet Singh, Ignace and Angela Joseph-Pauline, Allen and Enrique Santos, Christopher and Andrew Flores, and Selin and Senem Yigistoy.

The Class of 2015 was led by valedictorian Elvira Kirilko, an Honors student who earned a perfect 4.00 grade-point average majoring in Forensic Psychology. The ceremonies had dual salutatorians: Emily Ford, a Criminology major, and Daniel Destefano, a Criminal Justice (B.A.) major. Both also achieved flawless 4.0 GPAs; the tiebreaker is based on credits earned at John Jay.

Honorary doctorates were presented at the 10:30 AM and 3:30 PM ceremonies to two longtime "fierce advocates for justice": Chief Judge Robert Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, a champion of immigrant rights, and William Ramirez, a dogged fighter for police reform in his role as Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Puerto Rico. (See profiles below.)

Doctoral Honorees Are True 'Fierce Advocates'

At the 2015 Commencement, John Jay awarded honorary doctorates to a champion of the legal rights of immigrants and to a dogged fighter for criminal justice reform in Puerto Rico.

Chief Judge Robert Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit was instrumental in creating the Immigrant Justice Corps, the country's first fellowship program dedicated to providing critically needed high-quality legal assistance for the immigrant poor.

His fellow honoree, William Ramirez, is Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Puerto Rico, a role in which he has fought to reform Puerto Rico's so-called "outlaw police force." He has led investigations of alleged human rights abuses directed at homeless drug users, and the monitoring of police compliance with federal domestic violence protocols.

Katzmann is a political scientist as well as a lawyer and jurist, who has written or edited numerous books in such areas as antitrust policy, transportation policy for the disabled, and judicial review. Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has described Judge Katzmann’s scholarly writing as "required reading."

Ramirez, born and raised in the South Bronx, has continued to fight for civil and human rights despite threats directed at him and his organization, including the ransacking of ACLU offices and the police detention and interrogation of Ramirez for more than two hours.