"Find a Big Problem and Solve It”

Graduate Division Holds Commencement in Lincoln Center

June 15, 2017
Class of 2017 grads getting ready to march in at the 36th Division of Graduate Studies commencement.
Class of 2017 grads getting ready to march in at the 36th Division of Graduate Studies commencement.

The more than 1000 graduates ranged from students like Aimee Sidoui who finished her first post-bachelor’s degree as she prepared for a career as a fifth-grade teacher at the Yeshiva of Flatbush; to students like Stephanie King who heard a calling as a special education professional and decided on a second-career; and students like Stanley Pearlberg and Marie Hardy, both of GSSW, who turned to Touro after long and productive careers.

“I turn sixty in September,” laughed Hardy. “I’m doing this for my grandchildren.”

The procession was met with a sustained and thunderous applause as the graduates entered the main hall. After the graduates were seated, The Star Spangled Banner was performed followed by a rendition of Israel’s national anthem, HaTikvah.

Beginning what would be a theme of all the speakers, Dr. Nadja Graff, vice president of Touro College’s Division of Graduate Studies, delivered introductory remarks by describing the world that graduates will face.

“Today, more than ever, our city, state and nation are in need of dedicated, well-prepared and courageous leaders,” stated Dr. Graff. “Accept the challenges ahead and be confident in your knowledge that you have the skills, dedication and determination to make a positive impact on our global society.”

Dr. Alan Kadish, president of the Touro College & University System, stated that the world seemed more uncertain than it had been in the past.

“There are social, political and economic upheavals that would seem strange when I was growing up,” Dr. Kadish said. “With that kind of outlook, perhaps you might wonder can we really make a difference? Can we really make a better world?

Citing the example of the Jewish philosopher Maimonides and transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson, Dr. Kadish urged students to remain focused and remember Touro’s mission.  

“We cannot always control the tides of our lives: our health, what happens around us,” said Dr. Kadish. “We can, however, conjure our passion and best efforts to mold our internal lives to refine and perfect our character, skills and knowledge to bring positive change to the world around us.”

After Dr. Kadish’s moving speech, the deans of individual schools presented their commencement speakers: Melinda Bollers (GSE); Rachel Levenson (GSSW); Renata Pereira Rocha Moreira (GST); Rebecca Chavarria (SHS); Karlene Williams (GSB); and Sarah Cohen (GSJS).

Provost Patricia Salkin introduced the event’s keynote speaker, Dr. Shay David. Dr. David, a serial entrepreneur, is the co-founder of Kaltura one of the largest and most prominent open source video platform. Kaltura is used by more than 150,000 clients including major universities, fortune 500 companies and publishing companies.

Dr. David spoke of his own personal history, both as a young officer in the Israeli Air Force and as a start-up founder during the financial crash of 2008. From his own background and the challenges he overcame, Dr. David segued into a discussion of the responsibilities of the new graduates as members of the global information-based society.

“We must face the daunting problems of our time such as climate change, wealth inequality and the hardship caused by global migration,” Dr. David exhorted.

He concluded his speech by recalling President John F. Kennedy’s famous 1961 moonshot speech. 

“Our moonshot is actually not going to the moon; our moonshot is staying here and making sure we aren’t annihilating our planet or alienating each other,” he said to applause.

In a rising exhortation as he concluded, he noted the diversity of the Touro’s student body and asked them to work together.

“It is this diversity of voices and unity of souls that gives you all the power,” said Dr. David. “Find a big problem and solve it.”