Praise Omiponle ’19, ’21 (MBA), Hongbin Xu ’19, ’20 (M.S.) Are Graduate Commencement Valedictorians

Cornelius J. Higgins ’62, Ph.D., is also the recipient of an honorary doctorate.

Portrait photo of Praise OmiponlePraise Omiponle ’19, ’21 (MBA) and Hongbin Xu ’19, ’20 (M.S.) will be the graduate student speakers for their respective classes at Manhattan College’s virtual 2020/21 Graduate Commencement on Saturday, May 15.

Omiponle received her bachelor’s degree cum laude in management and global business in 2019 and completed her MBA with a concentration in business analytics in December 2020. She completed her coursework with a 3.95 grade point average. 

With engineering students Karthik Maddur ’19 and Kishan Thakurdin ’19, Omiponle was part of the winning team at the 2019 O’Malley School of Business Innovation Challenge. The trio won the $2,500 prize, having created QuickMech, a smartphone app that allows users to find local car mechanics in their area.

Omiponle was a graduate research assistant in the business analytics department at Manhattan College during the fall 2020 semester. During that time, she conducted data analysis on different datasets related to CRISPR, a tool used for editing genomes. She also performed data visualization using R coding and graphing.

Omiponle recently accepted a full-time job offer as a Market Research Manager at Microsoft.

Hongbin Xu portrait photoHongbin Xu is currently enrolled in the University of Connecticut’s Ph.D. program in biomedical engineering, where he is studying femtosecond lasers and their interaction with various materials, including biological samples, such as brain tissues. During his time as a graduate student, Xu worked on campus as a research assistant in the mechanical engineering department and as a teaching assistant and 3D printing lab manager. 

Born in China, Xu moved to Queens, New York, as a teenager. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering with a minor in mathematics from Manhattan in 2019, graduating summa cum laude. As an undergraduate, Xu participated in the Jasper Summer Research Program and was inducted into the national honor societies Tau Beta Pi (engineering) and Pi Tau Sigma (mechanical engineering), as well as Manhattan’s highest scholastic honor society, Epsilon Sigma Pi. He was the recipient of the National Science Foundation STEM Scholarship and the Brother Aubert Medal for Mechanical Engineering. 

Neil Higgins portrait photoAlso at the Graduate Commencement, Cornelius J. Higgins ’62, Ph.D., Chairman Emeritus, Applied Research Associates, will be the recipient of an honorary doctorate of science, and will deliver congratulatory remarks to the classes of 2020 and 2021.

A registered professional engineer and member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Higgins served on the Manhattan College Board of Trustees from 2003 to 2018 and is a trustee emeritus. He and his wife, Patricia G. Higgins, Ph.D., made a leadership gift of $5 million toward a 30,000-square-foot academic facility on Manhattan College’s South Campus, adjacent to Leo Hall. 

Due to open in 2021, the Patricia and Cornelius J. Higgins ’62 Engineering and Science Center is the cornerstone of Manhattan’s modernization of engineering and science facilities. In addition to the Higgins Center, he has supported initiatives including the Fund for Manhattan, the De La Salle Medal Dinner and Raymond W. Kelly ’63 Student Commons. He currently mentors high school students under Florida’s Take Stock in Children program.

The Baccalaureate Mass and Commencement ceremonies will be livestreamed online at on Saturday, May 15, beginning with the Baccalaureate Mass at 10 a.m. Commencement will begin at 3 p.m. on May 15. 

All events will be recorded and available for viewing at after they are completed.

By Pete McHugh