The Vaughn College community gathered on Saturday May 16 to celebrate the achievements of more than 170 students at this year’s commencement ceremony. Staff, faculty, family and friends were all on hand to congratulate the graduates and wish the class of 2015 much future success.

The class had the good fortune of hearing from two very successful women who were awarded honorary doctoral degrees from Vaughn, in additional to the student speaker.

Yichuan Luo spoke first at convocation and then at the commencement ceremony. He talked about his time at Vaughn, the personal growth he achieved and how he appreciated every step of the journey.

“Looking back at these moments of youth, curiosity, craziness, happiness, gain and loss, there’s not a single moment that I regret. My years of college life have taught me how to live, love, coexist, and be true to myself.”

He ended with a favorite saying from the Buddha. “In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” Then true to his generation, he took a “selfie” with his fellow grads.

Next up were Vaughn College President Dr. Sharon B. DeVivo and Board of Trustees Chair Mr. Thomas J. McKee to introduce and confer honorary degrees on the College’s guest speakers.

Bernice Falk Haydu was one of the first women to fly military airplanes for the Army Air Force in WWII as a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs). She was an aviation pioneer and as president of the WASPs was instrumental in having the organization recognized by Congress as veterans of WWII. The group was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on March 10, 2010.

Falk Haydu was joined by her family and friends to witness the honoring. “I am elated to be here and see so many of you graduating today,” said Falk Haydu. “I am finally receiving my college degree; this means so much to me.”

Falk Haydu was inducted into the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame in 2000, the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame in 2012 and in 2014 was given the Federal Aviation Administration Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award.

The commencement speaker Queens Borough President the Honorable Melinda Katz was then welcomed to the podium. Born and raised in Forest Hills, Katz is a graduate of the public school system and a true advocate for Queens. She graduated summa cum laude from the Univesity of Massachusetts, Amherst and received her juris doctorate from St. John’s University School of Law. Katz has been a friend to Vaughn College for years and a dedicated public servant for nearly 20 years, serving in key governmental positions on both the city and state level.

Katz began her speech by recognizing the incredible achievements of Falk Haydu, obtained at a time where the road to success was long and difficult for women. Katz gave credit to Falk Haydu and women like her who paved the way for herself and others. Katz went on to congratulate the graduates and offer some advice.

“Embrace your family and friends and the support they gave you on your journey. When you succeed, reach down and bring others up with you. And always remember to give back to your community, your family, your teachers and your college,” concluded Katz.

Vaughn had two special distance education degree recipients, Ross Day and John Sell, who traveled all the way from New Zealand to participate in the ceremony and receive their degrees.

“When I signed up and saw that the campus is in New York, I made it my goal to be there in person for graduation,” said Day. “Getting my degree from Vaughn was very fulfilling. I got involved in the program a lot, considering how far away I was, and I got so much out of this experience.”

“It has been a great experience, and it’s so interesting to see the vibrancy of New York City up close,” added Sell. “Vaughn’s observation tower offers the best view in New York, hands down.”

Vaughn College congratulates the class of 2015, and wishes them the best of luck in their future endeavors. Stay connected with Vaughn at

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From top to bottom: Vaughn College President Dr. Sharon B. DeVivo, Student Speaker Yichuan Luo, Commencement Speaker the Honorable Melinda Katz and Honorary Degree Recipient Dr. Bernice Falk Haydu speak to graduates at Vaughn College’s 2015 commencement ceremony.