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Flushing native Jon Favreau receives honorary doctorate at Queens College 99th commencement ceremony

Jun. 2, 2023 By Carlotta Mohamed

Flushing native and actor-director Jon Favreau received an honorary doctorate of fine arts at the Queens College 99th commencement ceremony on Thursday, June 1. 

Favreau attended Queens College from 1984 to 1987. His work in films such as “Elf,” “Zathura,” “Iron Man,” “Cowboys and Aliens,” “Chef,” “The Jungle Book” and “The Lion King” is known around the world. He is a key industry influencer through the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Upon accepting his doctorate, Favreau congratulated the class of 2023 on their hard work and accomplishments and encouraged them to take advantage of the opportunities that the present provides. 

“Pay attention to your curiosity. Your curiosity is a way that your subconscious speaks to you and shows you what it wants. Your subconscious is far smarter than your analytical brain,” Favreau said. “My curiosity was fostered on this campus — I took drawing from life, I took a film class on film philosophy and politics, I tried out for the school play even though I wasn’t a theater major. Looking back, all those things impacted my life in a huge way because I had teachers here and other students that fostered my interest in things that were just curiosities for me … As you take your jobs and go out into the marketplace, foster your curiosity. There’s nothing that can stop you now. You can create your own stories, your own movies, your own food.”

Photo by Adrian Childress

During the ceremony, Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado, who delivered the commencement address, and disability rights advocate Judith Heumann, posthumously, were recognized with the Queens College President’s Medal. 

Delgado, who was appointed and then elected lieutenant governor in 2022, is the first person of Latino descent to hold statewide office in New York. Recognized throughout the world as a powerful voice, activist, and inspiration in the struggle for disability rights, Heumann was so influential that she was often described as “the mother of the disability rights movement.” Rick Heumann, Judith Heumann’s brother, accepted the medal on her behalf. 

Queens College awarded just over 5,100 undergraduate and graduate degrees in total this year to candidates from summer and fall 2022, and winter and spring 2023. An estimated audience of 8,000 was in attendance at the ceremony, which took place on the campus quadrangle.

Queens College’s 99th commencement ceremony.Photo by Adrian Childress

Those in attendance included Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, who said the graduates are an “embodiment of perseverance, potential and possibility.”

“As I look around today at our extraordinary graduates, I see the richness and culture our borough. There are graduates from different ethnic backgrounds, countries, religions and sexual orientations, all with one goal in mind — that goal was to get a college education to have a better future for yourselves and your families,” Richards said. “Your families, who have sacrificed and saved so they can come to this country and their children can get an education right here in Queens. You are prepared to walk into a diverse marketplace and to make an immediate impact after a global pandemic temporarily disrupted our way of life, but you made it through.”

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards gives remarks at the Queens College 99th commencement ceremony on Thursday, June 1.Photo by Adrian Childress

Queens College President Frank Wu encouraged the graduates to keep learning and growing, no matter what path they choose. 

Life is a never-ending process of adapting and I hope that you use your time here as a foundation to continue to build upon. As you leave Queens College, I urge you to think critically and challenge what is familiar to you,” Wu said. “Ask questions, think outside the box, and explore new and exciting ideas. The world is ever-changing, and it is up to you to seize the opportunity to shape it for the better. And please always remember the motto of Queens College: ‘We Learn So That We May Serve.’” 

In her address to her peers, Andrea Garcia, who is graduating summa cum laude with a major in political science and a minor in legal studies, reiterated the Queens College motto from its founder, Paul Klapper, that has inspired them to learn with a purpose and to one day serve others with a common good. 

Andrea Garcia, a recipient of the college’s Paul Klapper Scholarship, gives an address at the Queens College 99th commencement ceremony on Thursday, June 1.Photo by Adrian Childress

“I am just one of the many stories that represents what it means to be a Queens College student,” Garcia said. “Together we are proud traditional and non-traditional students, undocumented students, international students, and veterans, just to name a few. Now it’s time to write your story.” 

Garcia is the recipient of the college’s Paul Klapper Scholarship. Named after the college’s first president, the scholarship is given to graduating seniors who plan to pursue graduate work. 

Garcia has interned in the offices of Senators John Liu and Charles Schumer and Congresswoman Grace Meng. She also interned with the Central American Refugee Center, helping to provide free legal services for immigrants. After graduation, Garcia plans to work as a paralegal and apply to law school in the fall, with the goal of becoming an immigration attorney.

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