In her Commencement address, art and cultural historian Sarah Lewis celebrated Pratt Institute’s class of 2024 and encouraged students to harness the power that arts have always had to create a more just society. “You have that skill. You have that power,” she said. “May your goal for your work, for your life, be so large that it includes far more than you.”

The May 15 Commencement honored the class of 2024 with a ceremony in the grand setting of Radio City Music Hall. The momentous gathering recognized over 1,350 students who received their diplomas after years of hard work and became the newest members of Pratt’s alumni community. 

The 135th Commencement was also live-streamed for graduating students, friends, and family who were attending remotely. Kyla Anne McAvinue, BFA Communications Design ’24, and Alyssa Marie Bermejo, BArch ’24, performed a warm rendition of Pratt’s alma mater before Pratt President Frances Bronet’s opening remarks. 

President Bronet greeted everyone in Radio City and around the world and congratulated the students on their accomplishments, noting their experience navigating multiple modes of learning in the context of the pandemic as they began their time at Pratt. Praising their intellect, determination, resilience, curiosity, and character, she said, ”These qualities drove you to express your ideas precisely, thoughtfully, to push beyond satisfaction and physical limitations, to create ways of making and communicating that transcend virtual and tangible dimensions, and to challenge your own limits, all of our limits, so that your professors and fellow classmates could join you in this pursuit of excellence.”

Board of Trustees Chair Gary Hattem invited students to reflect on the history of Pratt and encouraged students to nurture the friendships and creative partnerships they developed during their studies because these “will anchor you for a lifetime.” 

Pratt then bestowed honorary degrees upon three leaders in their fields whose work embodies the innovation and creativity promoted by the Institute, including Lewis (Doctor of Humane Letters), Pratt Institute alumna Doris Magsaysay Ho (Doctor of Humane Arts), president and CEO of Magsaysay Transport and Logistics Group, and Pratt Institute alumnus John Pai (Doctor of Fine Arts), a sculptor and Pratt Institute professor emeritus.

Sarah Lewis delivering the Commencement address
Sarah Lewis delivering the Commencement address

Lewis began her address by asking the audience to acknowledge their seatmates in “an ancient tradition of commencement ceremonies past.” She then talked about what a creative life entails, how “we all thrive when we have purpose, when we still have more to do,” and that “this moment in history is asking that you do something even more.” Speaking about the increasingly polarized climate in the United States, Lewis emphasized that “it is the work of culture that will shape the narratives that will see us out.” She gave examples of the power of the arts in public life, from Frederick Douglass’ use of photography “to catalyze a critical imagination” to how the iconic 1968 Earthrise image helped to galvanize the environmental movement. “The American project has long been one of vision and justice. By following the timeless journey of the artist, you will be the visionary leaders that this society needs.”

Doris Magsaysay Ho, in accepting her honorary degree, expressed gratitude for her education at Pratt, which “helps all of us to see the world through different, caring eyes.” Addressing the graduates, she said, “As you listen to today’s urgent cries of division and discontent, of pain and protest, may you design and create even more intensely, more beautifully, more inclusively, and more boldly than ever before,” ending with a call to “build the best society for humanity to thrive, a place full of hope, where the truest AI is not artificial intelligence, but our authentic imagination, ingenuity, and intrepidness.”

In accepting his honorary degree, John Pai said that while he was growing up, “I just wanted to be able to do everything. And I had no idea where I would go when I grew up to find a place where I could do everything.” He said that his years studying and teaching at Pratt “gave me the audacity to do the things that I’ve already done that I never thought I could do or certainly would do. Pratt gave me the audacity because I was prepared—with 2-D, 3-D, learning the abstract language,” he explained. “Whenever I was teaching, whatever course, I would try to make the connection between things that seem totally unrelated. So talk about nature, talk about Bach—they’re all related, so when you do one thing, you can also end up doing everything.” 

The graduation speakers also included Justice A. Whitaker, visiting assistant professor of film/video, who was named Distinguished Teacher (2023–24). He was honored with a medal designed by jewelry major Suah Choi. Feyisayo Aluko, BFA Writing ’24, and Nehal Sharma, MS Information Experience Design ’24, were the elected student speakers. Members of the class of 1974 were also recognized on the 50th anniversary of their graduation.

The class of 1974 is honored on stage framed by the newly designed backdrop
The class of 1974 is honored on stage framed by the newly designed backdrop

Pratt debuted a striking new look on the stage of Radio City Music Hall this year, using the venue’s large LED screen as a backdrop and showcasing the Institute’s design expertise. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the class of 2024 departed the historic venue with their fellow graduates, friends, and family, and entered the next chapter of their lives as Pratt alumni.

More photographs from Commencement are below and on the Pratt site. Follow @PrattInstitute on Instagram and the hashtag #PrattGrad24 to see more from this milestone event.

Pratt Commencement 2024, student celebrating outside of Radio City Music Hall
Pratt Commencement 2024, President Frances Bronet greeting the audience
Pratt Commencement 2024, view of the audience in Radio City Music Hall
Pratt Commencement 2024, alma mater performance
Pratt Commencement 2024, graduating students in Radio City Music Hall
Pratt Commencement 2024, graduating student with friends
Pratt Commencement 2024, mortarboard montage
Pratt Commencement 2024, students celebrating
Pratt Commencement 2024, students posing for a photo outside of Radio City Music Hall
Pratt Commencement 2024, student celebrating graduation
Pratt Commencement 2024, mortarboard design
Pratt Commencement 2024, students gathered outside Radio City Music Hall
Pratt Commencement 2024, students celebrating the day