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2006 Brooklyn College Commencement Honors Alumni in the Arts, June 1

2006 Brooklyn College Commencement to Honor Alumni in the Arts, June 1

Members of the College's Fiftieth Anniversary Class don golden robes, sit in the front rows, and are an integral part of each year's Commencement ceremonies.

Brooklyn College will celebrate its longstanding commitment to the performing arts by honoring outstanding musicians and theater professionals at its eighty-first Commencement Exercises on Thursday, June 1, at 10:30 a.m. on the campus Quadrangle. The honorees include musicians Randy Weston and Arturo O’Farrill (class of 1996); theater producer Woodie King, Jr. (MFA, class of 1999); and Symphony Space founder Isaiah Sheffer (class of 1956).

Mr. Sheffer will deliver the Commencement address to 3,005 graduates and receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Brooklyn College President Christoph M. Kimmich for his contributions to theater and music and his vision in creating Symphony Space. Famed jazz composer, pianist, and bandleader Randy Weston will also receive an honorary Doctor of Music degree for his outstanding and expansive career in modern American jazz.

Kimmich will preside over the ceremony as the College celebrates the achievements its graduating class—1,777 undergraduates and 1,238 graduate students. The festivities will be held outdoors, rain or shine, and the event will be simulcast on the Brooklyn College Web site at

Alumni honors will be presented to the following three distinguished graduates:

Richard Frankel (class of 1968), producer of celebrated Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, including Penn & Teller, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Little Shop of Horrors, Smokey Joe’s Café, Hairspray, and The Producers;

Woodie King, Jr., founder of the New Federal Theatre, which has produced more than 150 shows, including for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, What the Wine Sellers Buy, Reggae, and The Taking of Miss Janie; and

Arturo O'Farrill, virtuoso pianist, composer, arranger, bandleader, and director of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, which has toured internationally.

Presidential medals will be awarded to Ella Friedman Weiss (class of 1962), president of the Brooklyn Arts Council, and Michael A. Weiss (class of 1961), director of the MetroTech Business Improvement District. Both are being honored for their accomplished careers as tireless advocates for public education, community revitalization, economic development, and cultural and performing arts in Brooklyn.

Addressing the graduates will be Michael B. McGee, representing the class of 2006, who will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. In the fall, he will enter the graduate program in African Diaspora Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, on a full fellowship. McGee is a member of the CUNY Honors College, the Golden Key International Honour Society, the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, the Honors Academy Research Colloquium, and the CUNY Pipeline program. Outside the classroom, McGee is a member of the Varsity basketball team, has been named a CUNY scholar athlete and is a member of student government.

Student Stephanie Rosario will lead the recitation of the Ephebic oath, the ancient Athenian pledge of citizenship that will close the ceremonies. Rosario majored in political science and is a member of the Honors Academy, Puerto Rican Alliance, NYPIRG, and the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship. She interned with New York City Councilmember Leroy Comrie and New York State Assemblymen Matthew Mirones and Feliz Ortiz. Her goal is to earn her Ph.D. in political science and to work with a local community board or organization.

Among this year’s other notable students are the following:

Natalia Rowe, a member of the Honors Academy, came to Brooklyn College four years ago from Russia. She visited the College, and, impressed with the program she saw, left her family and friends in Russia, enrolled at the College, and will receive her Bachelor of Arts degree in speech pathology. In her spare time she is an accomplished ballroom dancer and recently won first place at the Northeast Regionals Qualifier for the 2006 USA Dance National Championships. She will attend graduate school at Columbia University in the fall to study speech pathology.

David Betesh majored in Judaic studies and is also a member of the Honors Academy. He worked with the Judaic Studies Department on the Sephardic Pizmonim Project and the Web site about the project, which is dedicated to presenting and disseminating old pizmonim (songs) that have no recordings. Betesh was also a peer tutor and, as the eldest of four children, is a role model to his brothers and sister. He plans to study to become a dentist after graduation.