Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s father died when Marty was nine, also leaving behind a wife and Marty’s two younger sisters, ages four and a half and 18 months. The family went on welfare and Marty had to work at night and on the weekends to help make ends meet. They ended up having to move into public housing when they could no longer afford their apartment. When it was time for Marty to go to college, he had to go part-time at night and it took him nine years to graduate.
“I did not grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth or even a silver-plated one,” Markowitz told an enthusiastic audience of thousands of relatives and friends of the largest graduating class in New York City College of Technology’s 62-year history. His account of the challenges he faced resonated with the graduates, many of whom are the first in their families to graduate from college and have had to balance their studies with work and other responsibilities.
“By the time I was in high school, I decided to make something of my life,” Markowitz continued. “Since age 16, I wanted to be Brooklyn Borough President and, at the age of 56, I realized my dream, after having lost the election for the same post 16 years before. I even got married for the first and only time at almost 55. Whether you’re an early bloomer or a late bloomer like me: ‘how sweet it is,’” he went on to say, doing a perfect Jackie Gleason impersonation.
Markowitz, a tireless advocate for his borough, managed to plug Brooklyn 20 times in his lively speech. “I want you to know how proud I am to look out and see you in your caps and gowns, because I know what you have accomplished,” he said. “And I assure you, when employers see a City Tech degree, they know that you have attained an impressive academic and personal achievement. Here at City Tech, you have not only received a great education, but an education Brooklyn style.”
The borough president also offered a great deal of solid, practical advice. “There is a greater power than ‘me, myself and I.’ Become involved in your neighborhoods — volunteer your time, your expertise and all that “know-how” you learned at City Tech,” he advised.
“In life, you can wait for things to happen or you can make things happen,” he added. “As a graduate of City Tech, you have style, moxie, pizzazz and chutzpah. And most important of all, you’ve got the Brooklyn attitude. You’re gonna make things happen.”
As the first college-bound person in her mother’s family, City Tech’s 2008 valedictorian, Stacy Cruickshank, had to make things happen for herself, including defending her desire for higher education. “My aunt in Grenada would ask, ‘Why do you read so much?’ I always liked school; I always wanted to do more than the ordinary.”
The 27-year-old Cruickshank, an international student raised in Trinidad and Grenada, told her fellow graduates, “I encourage you to believe in yourselves and not to set limitations on your dreams. There will be times when circumstances may seem so daunting that you’ll just want to quit. I challenge you never to settle for the ordinary or to accept mediocrity.”
Cruickshank, who was awarded not one, but two degrees — a Bachelor of Technology Degree in Facilities Management and an Associate Degree in Civil Engineering Technology had these words of advice for her fellow graduates: “Do what you love. One of my high school teachers always encouraged me to choose a career for which I had passion, so on those days when nothing seems to be going right, I would still enjoy what I was doing.
“Amidst the anxieties of life, take time out to have peaceful moments, to love, to laugh, to cry,” she continued. “It is only after we’ve done this that we can say we have lived.”
Cruickshank, who served as president of the American Society of Civil Engineers student chapter on campus and founded and served as president of the International Students Alliance, intends to continue her education and earn a Master’s Degree in Construction Management.
City Tech President Russell K. Hotzler conferred 1,818 degrees — 1,036 Associate and 782 Baccalureate. Then it was time for the graduates and their loved ones to step outside of the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden and into the sun, on their way to much-anticipated celebrations.
City Tech is located at 300 Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn at the MetroTech Center academic and commercial complex.