PHOTO: Graduates celebrate at the 2016 Brookdale Commencement Ceremony. Photo credit to Mark DeYoung
LINCROFT, NJ – More than 2,000 students graduated from Brookdale Community College on May 13 during the college’s 46th annual commencement ceremony on the Lincroft campus.
A total of 2,041 students from 18 different countries earned associate degrees from the college, with diplomas handed out during two ceremonies held in the Robert J. Collins Arena. The class of 2016 included 193 distinguished scholars and 34 students with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
“Graduates, congratulations on a successful academic journey,” said Brookdale President Dr. Maureen Murphy. “We have many distinguished guests who are here to honor you today... I cannot tell you how much we value your hard work and all of your achievements as Brookdale students.”
A total of 1,094 students earned associate in arts degrees; 492 earned associate in applied science degrees; 417 earned associate in science degrees; six earned associate in fine arts degrees; and 31 earned academic credit certificates.
Honorary degrees were also awarded to commencement speakers Norma Hardy and Bernard Weinstein.
Hardy, of Neptune, serves as assistant police chief with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department (PAPD), where she is the highest-ranking female officer in department history. In her first assignment with the PAPD in 1993, Hardy was awarded a medal for valor for her heroic rescue efforts following the Feb. 26 terror attack on the World Trade Center.
Today she also serves as chief of New Jersey aviation with the PAPD, where she oversees Newark International and Teterboro airports. She has received numerous awards in her career, including Officer of the Year from the International Association of Women Police.
“All things are possible if you work hard and believe in yourself. You can make anything happen,” Hardy told the graduates. “Be brave but not reckless, be proud yet humble, and as you walk your path, reach out your hand and bring someone along with you. Be a beacon in your community and an inspiration to your family.”
Weinstein, of Freehold, is a semi-retired attorney and a veteran of World War II. He has been practicing law in Monmouth County since 1964 while working as a vocal advocate for fellow veterans as a member of multiple veterans organizations.
He is a current member of the Brookdale Student Veterans Club and an ardent supporter of lifelong education, taking 68 courses at the college over the last 27 years.
College officials also presented Distinguished Alumni awards to Brookdale Emily Chapman and Selma Morris.
Chapman, an Ocean Township native and alumna of the Culinary Education Center in Asbury Park, won $50,000 and defeated celebrity chef Robert Irvine on the Food Network program “Chopped: Impossible” in 2015. Currently working as a sous chef in New York City, Chapman is undefeated in three separate appearances on the program.
Chapman discussed her own college experience, in which she enrolled in a four-year university with a full academic scholarship but later withdrew due to a significant personal hardship. In the end, however, Chapman said her challenges ultimately led her to the career of her dreams and a life she never imagined.
"Life gives you struggles sometimes," Chapman said. "But enrolling in the Culinary Education Center was the best opportunity I could have been given… For those of you who have struggled, and for those of you who will, embrace it as an opportunity to conquer a challenge and better yourself. The future is as bright as you make it. And as I can tell you, nothing is impossible.”
Morris, a Long Branch native, is a former senior investigator for the Monmouth County Correctional Institution and currently serves as executive assistant to the Monmouth County sheriff.
She has served as a member of multiple community groups and advocacy organizations, including the National Association of Negro and Professional Women’s Club and the Monmouth County Cotillion Committee. A U.S. Army veteran, Morris has also helped coordinate law enforcement career fairs at Brookdale and received a Community Service Award from the NAACP of Greater Long Branch.
Seven graduates were also recognized for their outstanding academic achievements: Nekesha Adams; Alexander Karn; Melanie Katz; Anthony Pompili; Rebecca Stattner; Julianna Masco; and Jeffrey Villapiano.