Professor Francisco Fernández was born to teach. And while his work in education has taken him all over the globe, he will be the first to tell you that he was also probably born to teach at Eugenio María de Hostos Community College. During a recent Women’s History Month screening of the documentary film Maestra
at the college, he revealed part of his incredible early education story to students, faculty and staff.
, the film by Catherine Murphy, tells the story of the 250,000 volunteer teachers who joined the national literacy campaign in Cuba in 1961. Almost half of them were under the age of 18, and over half were women. To everyone’s surprise, Professor Fernández spoke about his and his sister’s involvement in the campaign when he was 14 and she was 18. Becoming emotional at times, he revealed how empowered he felt when he was teaching fellow Cubans to read and write, and also how frightened they all were when rebel soldiers patrolled all around them.
For Fernández, the Cuban Literacy Campaign was an epiphany that revealed what he would do for the rest of his life.
Born in Santa Clara, Cuba, Professor Fernández received a Bachelor of Science degree from the Central University of Las Villas, Cuba in 1967, where for years he was a professor and head of the Physical Chemistry Department.
He earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. in 1977 from the Chemistry Faculty of the Moscow State University in Russia. He crossed the globe to work at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in Central America, where he taught from 1979 to 1983. Then he came to the United States to work for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the American Petroleum Institute from 1990 to 1999.
In 1992, Professor Fernández began his career at Hostos as an adjunct professor. Then in 2000 he began teaching general chemistry and environmental science courses full time.
Fernández said his “worldly” experiences as both a student and a professor have served him well at Hostos and he incorporates that knowledge into his coursework. In past semesters, Professor Fernández’s students were involved with the analysis of heavy metals contaminating the Harlem River. Currently, plans are underway to work with the Harlem River Project on site remediation and control of environmental issues affecting this part of the Bronx.
Professor Fernández has over 25 publications in referred scientific journals, and is the coauthor of a physical chemistry textbook that was published in Cuba in 1988.