The weather cleared, and thousands cheered, for Hunter’s glorious Class of 2018.
On May 30, a day of welcome sunny skies, opera singer Joanna Malaszyck, MA ’18, opened Hunter’s 217th Commencement with a stirring rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner.” Malaszyck’s voice filled Radio City, and in its power and beauty, the performance was a fitting start to an inspirational ceremony.
In her welcoming remarks, President Jennifer J. Raab noted that people always come to Radio City with great expectations. On this particular afternoon, as Commencement Speaker Vin Diesel made his entrance, the excitement in the hall ran especially high. A former Hunter student, the blockbuster star was about to receive an honorary doctorate.
“This is a blockbuster moment for you all,” President Raab told the graduates. Like T’Challa in Black Panther, she said, members of the Class of 2018 had overcome daunting obstacles by rallying their forces. Some had completed their studies while raising families and many had supported themselves by holding one, two, even three outside jobs.
Together, she said, these students represent more than 150 countries. Congratulating the family members who had crossed oceans to attend Commencement, she took a moment to directly greet one mother and cousin visiting from Kenya. She also welcomed students’ relatives from Jordan, Ethiopia, Albania, Israel and Morocco in their own languages.
Throughout the ceremony, President Raab shared the stories of students who’d overcome extraordinary challenges. Those students, she said, are fully equipped to adopt Hunter’s motto, Mihi Cura Futuri (The Care of the Future Is Mine), and use it as a moral compass throughout their lives.
These real-life stories had a profound effect on the man who’s made a career of powerful storytelling. When Vin Diesel rose to speak, he appeared deeply moved and was ebullient in his praise for Hunter students and the college he’d attended.
“How incredibly proud I am to be graduating with all of you,” he said, describing Hunter as “beautiful melting pot of talent and culture.” In Hollywood, he recalled, “I would tell everybody that I had learned and taken so much away from my experience at Hunter.”
He also recalled being a young Hollywood actor “at a time when people who looked like me couldn’t get roles, and no one was hiring a multicultural kid.” But because he’d been in Hunter classrooms, part of “the most diverse student body on the planet,” he said, he carried with him “the idea that people didn’t have to check off boxes anymore.” He used the creative writing skills he learned at Hunter to craft his own characters and stories.
Diesel called the members of the Class of 2018 “superheroes who have been armed with the knowledge they’ll need to combat whatever comes in the future.” He added, “I’m looking at the people my children’s future will depend on.”
He also gave the graduates one piece of advice: “If you don’t see it out there, create it. Create your own opportunity if need be.” Characterizing Hunter students as “fighters,” he continued, “Any obstacle that comes at you, or our planet – be willing to hit it head on.”
The graduates’ willingness to do just that was expressed by some in the sequined messages displayed on their caps.
“I am a goddess, a glorious female warrior,” one declared.
Predicted another: “There is nothing on my horizon except for everything.”