Friday, April 27, 2012 (Bronx, NY) – Dr. Gerald J. Meyer did not lay the bricks or pour the cement foundations for the buildings at Eugenio María de Hostos Community College, but his undying support of the institution dating back four decades is a large reason its spirit still stands tall.
Meyer, Hostos Professor Emeritus, was honored for his activism, love and generosity to the college, during a reception held on April 25th in the newly named Vito Marcantonio Room, formerly known as B-115 in the Hostos Community College 500 Building.
It was Meyer’s $25,000 donation in unrestricted funds that drew a crowd of approximately 50 friends, peers and family members to the very building he famously helped secure for the College some 40 years prior through a series of demonstrations.
So how did the 71-year-old Meyer - a longtime history and English professor at Hostos - respond to the outpouring of accolades? He gave a history lesson, of course.
Starting with his modest beginnings in an unheated apartment in Hoboken, N.J., Meyer shifted his focus to Marcantonio, the son of Italian immigrants born in 1902, whose political and social activism as a United States district attorney, member of the American Labor Party and Congressman representing East Harlem's 20th District are legendary.
Providing a free and poignant lesson for over 30 minutes, Meyer talked about how Marcantonio’s legacy mirrored that of the Hostos mission and why he chose Marcantonio’s name to grace the room.
Just like Marcantonio became the “bread for the poor people,” Meyer said Hostos has” always responded to the immediate needs of its students.”
The occasion was preceded by the unveiling of a celebratory plaque to mark the event and the room as a constant reminder of both Meyer and Marcantonio.
Hostos President Félix Matos Rodríguez helped Meyer reveal the plaque that included the phrase, “To Dream the Impossible Dream.” President Matos Rodríguez lauded the donation and Meyer for setting a philanthropic example he hopes others will follow. Calling Meyer’s act an example of the College’s dedication to “paying it forward,” he said the unrestricted funds are vital to the educational process. Meyer thanked Hostos for helping him complete his own personal journey as the College continues to “respond in real ways to the needs of its students.”
“Jerry has a great love of this College like few other people,” said President Matos Rodríguez. “It is truly an honor to recognize all that he has done for Hostos during the past 40 years and everything he continues to do for the College.”
Highlighting the history lesson was Hostos student and Repatory Company member Ebrahim Rasheed. Rasheed was introduced by Meyer’s longtime friend and peer Nydia Edgecombe, the Director of Alumni Relations at Hostos. Rasheed played the part of Marcantonio and read from a letter penned in 1946 to President Harry S.Truman, urging the approval of Senate Bill 51 that was passed by the Legislature of Puerto Rico providing for the use of the Spanish language as the means of instruction in the public schools.
The event was also attended by Ana Carrión-Silva, Vice President for Institutional Advancement and Saudy Tejada, a 2004 Hostos graduate and Mistress of Ceremony who called Meyer her “hero” and “mentor.” Tejada is co-chair of the “Circle of 100” scholarship fund with Meyer that helps Hostos students in varying need continue to follow their academic dreams.
The event wrapped up with comments by Hostos history professor Ernest Ialongo who spoke on behalf of Provost Carmen Coballes-Vega. Drawing a detailed comparison between Meyer and Marcantonio, Ialongo said he thought it was perfect Meyer chose the room to be named for Marcantonio and not himself.
“Marcantonio in many ways embodied the lives our students live, and the struggles they endure to advance themselves,” Ialongo said.” He was born in a close knit ethnic community, and his father passed away when he was quite young. And, in the face of this early setback, he pushed himself to excel in school and eventually made himself a man who could give back to his community.”
“I think of so many of my students who are single parents, or are taking care of their parents, and yet push themselves at Hostos to advance themselves, and their future generations, and to give back to their communities. … Marcantonio also reminds me so much of Jerry. So committed to social justice, so committed to asking the difficult questions, so committed to demanding answers to the difficult questions—forcing people to think and not accept an injustice by simply remaining silent or ambivalent.”
Speaking of the donation that will come over the next few years to Hostos, Meyer said, “I hope it brings the school closer to Marcantonio.” While teaching others how to “pay it forward” at Hostos.
About Hostos Community College
Eugenio María de Hostos Community College, part of The City University of New York (CUNY) system, was founded in 1968. In addition to associate degree programs that facilitate easy transfer to CUNY’s four-year colleges or baccalaureate studies at other institutions, Hostos also has an award-winning Division of Continuing Education and Professional Studies that offers courses for professional development and certificate-bearing workforce training programs. In four decades, Hostos has grown from a class of 623 in the fall of 1970 to the spring 2012 enrollment of over 7,000 students. The college also serves an additional 10,000 students through its Division of Continuing Education and Professional Studies. For more news and stories about Hostos Community College, visit www.hostos.cuny.edu.
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Phone: 718-518-6872 or 917-627-9097
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