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Columnist for The New York Times Delivers 45th Annual Commencement Address

Charles M. Blow, a columnist for The New York Times, addresses the Class of 2011
Charles M. Blow, a columnist for The New York Times, addresses the Class of 2011.

At the 45th Annual Commencement, held the day before Mother’s Day, keynote speaker Charles M. Blow, a visual opinion/editorial columnist for The New York Times, thought it appropriate to share lessons on living, learning and success taught to him by his mother.
The magna cum laude graduate of Louisiana’s Grambling State University addressed graduates, their family members and friends during the May 7 ceremony at Temple University’s Liacouras Center. This year’s 1,800 graduates included eight College employees, 20 police officers and 21 international students from 14 different countries.

A native of Louisiana, Blow recalled his mother, a newly minted teacher, struggling to support five sons after her marriage ended. “Lord knows, it was enough for any one person,” Blow said. “But, my mother refused to let that be the end of her story or of her studies.”

He said his mother continued taking classes—many at a local community college—at nights and on weekends to earn numerous certifications, and eventually a master’s degree. There were nights when his mother took him to class with her because she could not find a babysitter, he said. “She worked all her life as a teacher, retiring a few years ago,” he said. “The community college system helped my mother to find and fuel her passion, and through that passion she taught me that learning is more than a ladder to improving your circumstances. She taught me that finding your purpose was the same as finding yourself,” Blow said.

The graduates enthusiastically welcomed Blow’s remarks. Among this year’s graduates were many outstanding students.

Larry Thi, 20, of Southwest Philadelphia, a winner of a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship worth up to $30,000 a year to attend the college of his choice, was one of 60 community college graduates nationwide to win the coveted scholarship.

Students Stefanie Gisler, 25, of Switzerland, Kevin McGrady and Yopy Jap received two-year scholarships to attend Bucknell University as part of the Bucknell Community College Scholars Program.

During the Commencement ceremony, President Curtis said he realized that many of the graduates were concerned about the nation’s uncertain job market and proposed cuts in financial aid that may affect students transferring to a four-year school. “However, in these times and in these circumstances, there are always opportunities for change.” President Curtis said. “Unleash your creativity and use every possible resource to obtain your educational and career goals.”

Noel Aragon
2011 Student Speaker Noel Aragon.
Excited students
Excited students await the graduation ceremony.