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The College of New Rochelle to Hold Final Commencement Ceremony

May 10, 2019
Ruth Hassell-Thompson and College of New Rochelle President Bill Latimer at dedication ceremony at the College’s Rosa Parks Campus in Harlem in November 2018

Ending 115 years of preparing young women (and in more recent years men) for careers in the modern world, The College of New Rochelle, New York State’s first Catholic College for women, will hold its final commencement ceremony this month in what is sure to be a moving and bittersweet occasion.

Ruth Hassell-Thompson, former New York State Senator nurse, advocate, political powerhouse, and long-time friend of The College of New Rochelle, will give the keynote address and receive an honorary degree at the College’s 112th and final Commencement ceremony to be held Tuesday, May 21 at 1 p.m. at the Riverside Church in Manhattan.

Nearly 1,000 bachelor's and master’s degrees will be awarded to the Class of 2019, as well as honorary degrees to Thomas Donohue, President and CEO of the United States Chamber of Commerce, and Catherine Alicia Georges, professor and chairperson of the Department of Nursing at Lehman College, City University of New York.

The commencement ceremony will mark a sad and unfortunate end to a remarkable journey that began with the founding of The College of New Rochelle in 1904 by the Ursulines as the first Catholic college for women in New York State, a full 16 years before women even had the right to vote. Over the course of the last 115 years, the College expanded to four Schools and as many as seven campuses throughout the New York metropolitan area, providing more than 56,000 students—women and men, both traditional age and adult learners—with the opportunity to better their lives through education.

In late February the College announced that it would close its doors due to mounting financial difficulties, that despite valiant efforts, it was unable to overcome and signed an agreement with Mercy College that would allow its students to continue their education at the kindred college.

“Every one of our Commencement Ceremonies has been a special day for the family and friends of our graduates, but this ceremony is one that will long be remembered by us all as it is the final Commencement ceremony here at The College of New Rochelle,’’ said College President Dr. William Latimer. “We thank the graduates, families and many friends for all they have done for our College Community over the years, and to our alumnae/i whose impactful accomplishments have reflected so well on our beloved College. The spirit and the mission of CNR, which has graduated so many strong women and men over the years, will live on through our graduates. We are proud to have Ruth Hassell-Thompson, a powerful role model, as our final commencement speaker, a fitting way to mark this bittersweet occasion.’’

Founded in 1904 as the College of St. Angela, the College originally provided Catholic women opportunities to pursue higher education degrees. Over the years, though the College expanded to include three coeducational schools – the School of New Resources, School of Nursing & Healthcare Professions and the Graduate School, it maintained its single-gender environment in the School of Arts & Sciences, providing an empowering force for the many successful women who were shaped by the school, and went on to impressive careers as leaders. In 2016, the College, in an effort to boost enrollment, began accepting men into the School of Arts & Sciences and became fully coeducational.

About the Keynote Speaker:

Ruth Hassell-Thompson

Nurse, advocate, and political powerhouse, Ruth Hassell-Thompson has spent more than five decades fighting to improve lives and build communities, especially those of women and minorities. Hassell-Thompson began her career as a pediatric nurse and substance counselor. In the 1980s, Hassell-Thompson served as executive director of the Westchester Minority Contractors Association and later joined the Mount Vernon City Council, where she served as council president and acting mayor of the City of Mount Vernon. In 2000, she won election to statewide office, representing the 36th district in the New York State Senate. A civil rights champion, during her eight terms in office, she was instrumental in the passage of significant legislation. She was a staunch advocate for parole reform, and chaired the Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee and was a ranking minority member on the Consumer Protection and Judiciary committees. In 2016, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed Hassell-Thompson special advisor for policy and community affairs of New York State Homes and Community Renewal, where she continues her efforts toward building, preserving and protecting affordable housing, and encouraging home ownership across the state.

Thomas J. Donohue

During his more than 20 years as the president and CEO of the United States Chamber of Commerce, Thomas J. Donohue has transformed the Chamber into a lobbying and political force to be reckoned with. In an era of economic and fiscal challenges, Donohue has been at the forefront of efforts to expand trade and domestic energy production, rebuild America’s infrastructure, revitalize capital markets, and advocate legal, tax, education, and entitlement reform. In addition, he vigorously works to protect the business community’s right to speak to and participate in the political and policy affairs of the nation. Under his leadership, the Chamber has helped secure business victories on Capitol Hill, before governments worldwide, in the regulatory agencies, in courts of law, as well as in the court of public opinion. The Chamber has also emerged as a major political force in races for the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Catherine Alicia Georges, EdD, RN, FAAN

With a professional career that spans more than three decades, Catherine Alicia Georges, EdD, RN, FAAN, is a formidable leader in education, community, and political policy making arenas. Georges is currently professor and chairperson of the Department of Nursing at Lehman College, City University of New York, where she has taught for 43 years. Recently elected as the National Volunteer President for AARP, she is the principal volunteer spokesperson for AARP and a liaison between the Board and those the organization serves. She is President of the National Black Nurses Foundation and Chairperson of the Board for the Bronx Westchester Area Health Education Council and is a past president of the National Black Nurses Association, an organization representing more than 150,000 Black nurses and nursing students. A sought-after speaker, she has lectured on nursing and healthcare issues around the world and is widely published author, with work having appeared in journals such as Image, Nursing Leadership Forum, Ethnicity and Disease and the Journal of the National Black Nurses Association.