May 21, 2004 — Striking a theme of global and spiritual engagement, Yeshiva University President Richard M. Joel last night urged this year’s graduating class to dedicate themselves to a Torah tradition of leadership and communal responsibility.
In a commencement address, his first as president, he spoke of new challenges confronting modern society and old dilemmas—conflict, fear, and distrust—
that require renewed resolve.
He exhorted the students to understand how central they are to these challenges.
“Humankind has within its grasp the power to eliminate much of human suffering,” President Joel told an enthusiastic audience of 5,000 students and their families, alumni, administration, and guests who gathered at The Theater in Madison Square Garden. The president’s speech highlighted YU’s 73rd Annual Commencement Exercises.
President Joel also bestowed honorary degrees on Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of The Simon Wiesenthal Center; Dr. Ruth Roskies Wisse, Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and professor of comparative literature at Harvard University; and Yeshiva College alumnus Dr. Maurice Wohlgelernter, professor emeritus of English at Baruch College, City University of New York, and former YC professor of English.
The president conferred some 2,000 undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well. He also re-conferred degrees on the Yeshiva College Class of 1954, which marked its 50th anniversary. Other acknowledgments went out to the Yeshiva and Stern College classes of 1979, on their 25th anniversaries, and the Stern classes of 1958 and 1959.
In his remarks, President Joel urged graduates to “spread goodness and Godliness, values and morals, truth and Torah, champion nobility, and beckon the dawn.”
The student speaker at this year’s commencement was Yeshiva College’s Ariel R. Bayewitz of Teaneck, NJ, and one of 10 valedictorians.