Newsroom Archive


More Than 2,700 Students to Graduate from John Jay College of Criminal Justice on Thursday, May 28

Award-winning Journalist Ted Koppel to Receive Honorary Degree 

Leaders in Academia and Journalism Will Receive Honorary Degrees for their
Life-long Commitment to Academic Excellence and Social Justice

New York, NY, May 19, 2009 –  Students, alumni, faculty and guests will gather in the Madison Square Garden Theatre for the College’s Commencement exercises on Thursday, May 28, 2009, at 10:30 AM and 3:30 PM. College President Jeremy Travis, will open both Commencement ceremonies. The day is the high point for undergraduate and graduate students who have worked diligently in pursuit of academic excellence. 

The 2009 class gift will be given to New York Cares, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting volunteerism and community service in New York City.

***Honorary Degrees to Be Awarded***

John Jay College of Criminal Justice will grant three honorary degrees. This year's honorary degree recipients are renowned for their contributions to academia and the arts.

Ted Koppel, Doctor of Letters
A preeminent journalist and winner of five Peabody Awards, Ted Koppel is the former anchor of ABC’s Nightline and served as managing editor of “Koppel on Discovery” for the Discovery Channel. . Koppel’s ground-breaking work has been in documentary and “town hall” journalism. He became a nightly presence in 1979 when his hard-hitting coverage of the Iran hostage crisis galvanized the nation. Koppel has fought to bring important stories about criminal justice issues to the attention of the world including several in-depth investigations into the nation’s prison system. He earned his reporting spurs by covering some of the major stories of the 1960s and 1970s – the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign. He has also authored or co-authored several books, including The Wit & Wisdom of Adlai Stevenson (1965); In the National Interest (1977); and Nightline (1996). Mr. Koppel is a senior analyst for National Public Radio.

Patricia Hill Collins, Doctor of Humane Letters
Patricia Hill Collins, Wilson Elkins Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland, is major social theorist, whose scholarship, research and activism has focused on the examination of the intersecting power relations of race, gender, social class, sexuality and nationality. Professor Collins is the 100th President of the American Sociological Association (ASA), becoming in 2007 the first African American woman elected to the position in the organization’s 104-year history. She has written seven books, including Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Published in 1990 and re-released in 2000 as a tenth-anniversary edition, it is a powerful work that interrogates the field of sociology by placing black women’s experiences and ideas at the center of its analysis. Black Feminist Thought won the Jessie Bernard Award of the ASA for significant scholarship in gender, and the C. Wright Mills Award of the Society for the Study of Social Problems.

David Levering Lewis, Doctor of Humane Letters
David Levering Lewis, Julius Silver University Professor in the Department of History at New York University, has dedicated his intellectual life to the understanding of America, through brilliant studies of its major movements and the people who have led them. He is a scholar of 20th century U.S. social history and has written seminal biographies of Martin Luther King Jr., and of W.E.B. Du Bois. Professor Lewis served as Martin Luther King Jr. University Professor at Rutgers University and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, among others. Other major works on the social history of African Americans include When Harlem Was in Vogue, a major study of the cultural politics of race relations in the 1920s and 1930s. His attention to the literature of poets, novelists and essayists has provided a window into the passions and perspectives of major voices in this country. 


***Valedictory Oration***

Heike Zelnhefer is the valedictorian for the 2009 graduating class. An immigrant from Munich, Germany, she decided to enroll at John Jay College because she knew she wanted to be of service to others. She left a corporate position to become a full-time student and worked as a Peer Counselor at the college. Heike will graduate with a baccalaureate degree in Forensic Psychology and plans to pursue a graduate degree in social work at the NYU Silver School of Social Work. Her goal is to treat and educate victims and survivors of domestic violence. Her cumulative grade point average is 4.0.


***Salutatory Oration***

Renee Petrucelli is the salutatorian for the class of 2009. She will graduate with a bachelor of science degree in Criminal Justice. Renee decided to enroll at John Jay after doing a year of AmeriCorps service in the New York City public schools. At John Jay, Renee participated in the Vera Fellows Program – an internship and academic program for students committed to social justice and community service. She plans to pursue a master’s in education and criminal justice. Renee hopes to serve as a correctional educator. Her cumulative grade point average is 3.983.


About John Jay College of Criminal Justice: An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to upwards of 14,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nationsIn teaching, scholarship and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art and science in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law.  For more information, visit