A special “Comeback Commencement” for the Brooklyn College Classes of 2020 and 2021, who were unable to enjoy an in-person commencement due to COVID-19 restrictions, was held on July 12 in the Claire Tow Theater in Whitman Hall.
“The sacrifices these graduates made and the commitment they showed to complete their degrees were extraordinary,” said Brooklyn College President Michelle J. Anderson. “We are thrilled to be able to hold this commencement for the Classes of 2020 and 2021 on our beautiful campus to share their joy as they continue with this next chapter in their lives.”
The event had a distinct theme — recovery, remaining, and reliance—and several special guests were on hand to deliver that message.
The stars of commencement were Roby Daniel, the valedictorian for the Class of 2020, and Asma Awad, the valedictorian for the Class of 2021.
Awad, who is working as a software engineer at JPMorgan Chase & Co., offered advice based on her experiences doing something she loves: coding.
“None of us are immune to making mistakes. It’s one thing to be perfect and another to be your best, and I think that the latter says more about someone than the former,” Award said. “Problems come our way on a daily basis, and we probably share more of them than we think. It doesn’t take a code review to open up to different perspectives on a single problem.”
Daniel, who is currently studying medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, said while he was proud to deliver his speech online to his fellow graduates in 2020, the in-person event was extra special.
“Class of 2020, I want to remind you that adversity was not new to us, even if it may have taken on a different shape and form,” Daniel said. “We made it through our undergraduate journey and two years of our post- graduate career, all while following Brooklyn College’s motto: nil sine magno labore—nothing without great effort.”
Serving as keynote speaker was actor, producer, writer, and prolific podcaster Rachel Strauss- Muniz ‘01, who serves on the board of directors of the Brooklyn College Alumni Association and was also a former adjunct lecturer. Now the executive producer and host of the 2021 Webby Award–nominated podcast Latinos Out Loud, she is one of seven selected writers for the National Hispanic Media Coalition’s 2021 LatinX Stream Showcase, where her short film The Swimmers premiered.
Strauss-Muniz brought energy and humor to the event, expressing her deep love for both Brooklyn and Brooklyn College. Comparing the pivots she has made during her eclectic career—particularly during the pandemic—that spanned working in media, marketing, and entertainment, she praised the more than 9,000 total Brooklyn College graduates of the two classes .
“You had a choice to plummet or pivot and you did it. You all rose to the occasion. We all made the decision to shift, adapt, and overcome,” Muniz said.