Among the speakers were Senator Chuck Schumer, State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, and Councilman James Gennaro.
The ceremony was held on the campus Quad, an expansive lawn at the center of the college.
Francesca Lunghi, who received an Artist Diploma, led the National Anthem, and Father Paul Wood of the Queens College Newman Center led the invocation.
Schumer told stories of his own upbringing and his daughter who also recently graduated from college.
He said this generation differs from the previous ones because it was born into the technology age.
“It's in your blood stream,” Schumer said. “Technology is to you as a fish is to water, you're swimming in it.”
Schumer told the class of 2012 that his advice for the future is “go for it.”
“Figure out what your dream is, reach high for it,” he said.
Sports radio host Howie Rose, of WFAN Sports Radio, also spoke to the graduating class.
He advised the class not to fear the future, and that rather they should feel excited because they are in charge of their own lives, armed with a first-class education.
“All that students in the closing stages of their academic career seem to hear these days, and I've got two kids just about your age, they hear it too, is stories about how tough it is out in the 'real world,' and how hard it is to find a job, and how challenging it is to find happiness in your chosen field of dreams,” he said.
“Why I'm really here today is to at least try to convince you that talk like that is a bunch of short-sighted, intimidating, fear-mongering nonsense,” he said. “Accept none of it.”
Rose said he first went to Brooklyn College, but transferred to Queens half-way through freshman year to be closer to home to help with his father, who had fallen ill.
He called the transfer one of the greatest instances of serendipity in his life.
Rose said he got a part-time job at Sports Phone while in college in 1975, which was a telephone line people could call to get immediate sports updates.
He petitioned his teachers to give him 13 of his final 16 class credits for his work at Sports Phone.
“All that they really required was that I kept a log of my work and put into writing how what I learned on campus was having an impact on the working world, so I often tell people that thanks to this program, I don't know if I graduated as much as I was smuggled out of college,” he said, before turning to a faculty member to check on a statute of limitations.
Graduate Yakov Yakubov, who gave the student-led commencement address, agreed that the faculty at Queens College work together to help their students succeed.
“I'll be perfectly honest, I wasn't sure I'd graduate myself, because I never earned a single 'click point,'” he said to a giggling audience, referring to a new system where students use clickers to submit answers in class.
“Your's are the shoulders upon which we stand,” he told parents and staff, “and our most stunning accomplishments are due unwaveringly to your overwhelming support.”
Yakubov, who earned his Master's in Neuroscience with a 4.0 GPA, was one of five outstanding students honored at the ceremony.
Now a Rego Park resident, Yakubov immigrated from Uzbekistan at four years old with several other Bukharin Jews to the United States with his parents.
His accomplishments at Queens College include working with Psychology Professor Richard J. Bodnar in a neuroscience lab, where they investigated how brain pathways associated with pleasure and reward affect feeding behavior in mice, particularly the consumption of fats and sugars.
Last summer he served as a neurobiology research lab assistant at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovet, Israel. He intends to study dentistry at Columbia University in the fall.
“We invest a lot of time and sweat in this degree of ours, and I think we largely deserve the diploma we get today, or will get in the mail in six to eight weeks,” Yakubov joked again.
“As Americans our generation's political and social consciousness awoke with 9/11 and was intensified with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the tragedy of [Hurricane] Katrina,” he said. “As the world around us changes, college has been a safe haven – nurturing and protecting us and providing us with the learning we need to change the world ourselves.”