Remarks by President Félix V. Matos Rodríguez
On his investiture as sixth president of Hostos Community College
Delivered during the 39th Commencement Ceremony
Bronx, New York
June 4, 2010
Ceremonies like this one – the investiture of a new college president – are really a celebration of the institution. Today we are really celebrating Hostos Community College. Today we are celebrating the people behind the institution: students, graduates, family members, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, and community friends. Today we are celebrating Hostos’ legacy and Hostos’ mission.
Let me make it clear that I am convinced that the mission of this College is as relevant today as it was forty-two years ago when it was created.
While I am president of Hostos, the cornerstones of our mission will not change. This college will hold fast to its commitment to provide our students with what they need and deserve: access to higher education; excellence in instruction; opportunities for intellectual growth; and fulfillment of their potential leading to an improved quality of life. This is forever inseparable from our commitment to the South Bronx and its neighboring communities, whose longtime residents are constantly being joined by newcomers from all over the world.
While I am president of Hostos, the college community will continually consider and reconsider how we can fulfill our mission to the best of our ability. Striving for improvement, we will change what needs to be changed in the way we deliver the content of our courses; we will adapt our offerings to meet the needs of new student populations; and we will create additional programs to provide a wider range of career opportunities for our graduates. We see some of early successes of those new programs with the first graduate of our Criminal Justice dual degree program, the first two graduates from our Mathematics Associate’s degree, and seven graduates from our dual degree programs in Engineering as part of today’s Commencement.
While I am president of Hostos, I will continue to seek the support of members of the community as well as elected officials who are committed to our mission and the populations we serve. The college needs allies who are confident of our ability to accomplish our mission and willing to help us achieve our goals in bringing about positive changes to the city, to the neighborhoods we serve, and to higher education.
While I am president of Hostos, this will be my pledge: I pledge that we will advance as an intellectual community by building consensus about the things we need to continue, what we need to change, and the mechanisms we need to have in place in order to remain a dynamic proactive institution.
It is important to understand that I am not taking this pledge alone. This is a pledge we all must make—alumni, faculty, staff, and administrators, as well as our supporters in all walks of life—in order to maintain an educational community that is committed to advancing the mission of Hostos, to making it real, and willing to be judged by our success in achieving our goals. Please join me in this pledge and make this your mission as well. I need all of you to achieve this goal; we all need each other to make it happen.
Words cannot express how deeply I appreciate the honor and how willingly I accept the responsibility of being President of Eugenio María de Hostos Community College. With your continuing support, we will build our future as this college has always done at Hostos—together. I hope that you will always remember that our motto, “One College—One Family,” is a bond of enduring kinship, and we really mean it when we tell our entering students that Hostos is “where your future begins.”
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to lead this great institution with the assistance of such a committed faculty, staff, and administration, and the invaluable guidance and support of the CUNY Board of Trustees, the University’s Central Administration, and city, state, and federal elected officials. Vice Chairman Berry and Chancellor Goldstein, from the bottom of my heart, “muchas, muchas gracias.”
Today, we also give thanks for the presence of two very important members of our extended Hostos family: Justice Sonia Sotomayor and her mother, Doña Celina. I want to take a moment to reflect on the significance of their visit for us at Hostos today.
Let’s start by remembering that Doña Celina is a 1973 graduate of our nursing program. It always gives us great joy to receive and honor our alumni, particularly those of the “pioneer” generation – those first graduates who placed their trust in a young institution to provide them with an excellent education right in their own neighborhood. The opportunities that Doña Celina received at Hostos broadened her horizons and paved the way to a rewarding career. She set an example that I am sure contributed to the aspirations and success of her two children, Sonia and Juan.
Justice Sotomayor’s visit highlights the importance of institutions like Hostos for our city and for communities that traditionally have been marginalized from higher education. The famous “American Dream” is not possible without public universities that offer an excellent education at a modest price to those who are economically disadvantaged.
The powerful coalition of activists, community leaders, educators, students and other figures that fought for the creation of Hostos (and who continued fighting to ensure its viability) realized the positive impact that establishing a college in New York’s poorest neighborhood would have. They knew that Hostos would be a constructive force in the economic and cultural development of the South Bronx. They knew that there was a need for an institution that would enable speakers of other languages to master English while earning a degree. They knew that education transforms lives. And because they knew all of this, they fought for Hostos. And for their vision and their tenacity, we will be forever in their debt.
The visit of our two distinguished “boricuas” to Hostos today attests the relevance of Hostos’ mission some forty-two years after it was founded. We still have thousands of lives to transform through education in the Bronx and its neighboring communities. On the occasion of their visit, we reaffirm the relevance of the Hostos mission and we pledge, as I mentioned earlier, to adapt that mission to the changing needs of the community in keeping with the best emerging practices in higher education.
As President of Hostos, nothing would make me happier than to have figures of the same caliber, standing, and profound sense of humanity as Justice Sotomayor participating in all of our commencement ceremonies. It would be one way, among many, of validating Hostos’ excellence and our contributions to the whole wide world. But also, and most importantly, it would be a way of letting each one of our graduates know, letting each one of you here tonight know how valuable and special you are. You certainly deserve this, and much, much more. So, I wish you the best of luck on the road ahead and urge you to stay true to your dreams and your passions. Mucha suerte, y que Dios los bendiga.