In recognition of their extraordinary service, Interim President Daisy Cocco De Filippis will present Presidential Medals to a Hostos student, staff member, community leader, and faculty at the College’s 51st Commencement Ceremony.  

Meet the recipients!
Maya Joy Abdoussala, Class of 2021
Maya Joy Abdoussala graduated from high school in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines at the age of 16 and planned to go to college there. However, an unexpected move to the Bronx led her to Hostos, where she has since explored areas of study she’d never considered and ultimately uncovered new interests and passions. 
“Some of my first classes were electives, like anthropology and public speaking, and I found I was enjoying those kinds of courses,” she said, adding: “I didn’t realize how much I love to write beyond just mandatory classroom assignments. And of course, learning about American Black history.”
Outside of class, the Liberal Arts major liked writing think pieces and poetry in her free time, and she enjoyed Maya Joy Abdoussalaexploring her new and evolving interests through her involvement in multiple clubs at Hostos. Maya served as the President of the English Club, where she worked with other club officers to recruit members and organize their annual poetry competition. She also participated in the Hostos Honors Program, through which she took part in monthly colloquia and undertook community service. Additionally, she helped organize a virtual talent show as an officer of the Honors Club. Maya is currently working as a writing tutor at the Hostos Writing Center, where she assists students in one-on-one sessions, handouts, presentations, and mentor. In recognition of her exemplary dedication and work at the College, Maya will be presented with the Presidential Medal at Hostos’ 51st Commencement Ceremony.
The now-19-year-old holds a 4.0 GPA and plans to transfer to a four-year college; she’s applied to programs at The City College of New York, Hunter College, and Baruch, as well as New York University and Syracuse University. And as she turns the page to a new chapter, Maya looks forward to honing her craft as a writer and empowering others do the same. “I can see myself being a journalist,” she said, adding she wants to also to continue helping others improve their writing skills, be it as a copy editor, tutor, or teacher.
Dr. Rafael Lantigua, Medical Director, Associate in Internal Medicine New York-Presbyterian/CUMC
Dr. Rafael A. Lantigua has worn many hats. Besides specializing in Internal Medicine, he has served in a variety of roles in various medical, academic, administrative, philanthropic and non-profit organizations. A Professor of Medicine at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, he also serves as the Medical Director, Associate in Internal Medicine affiliated with New York-Presbyterian/CUMC.
Dr. Rafael LantiguaIn 1980 he joined the Division of General Medicine at Columbia as a faculty member. Since 1994, he has served as Associate Division Chief of the Division of General Medicine and as Medical Director of the Associates in Internal Medicine (AIM) practice. He is a member of the Admission Committee of Columbia University Medical School and member of the Internal Medicine Residency Selection Committee. Since 1995, he has represented Columbia University at the American Medical Association (AMA) Section on Medical Schools. 
Dr. Lantigua has been actively involved in local and national studies of aging, cardio-vascular health, and quality of life issues in minority populations. He is co-founder and was previously the Chairperson of the Board of Alianza Dominicana, Inc., a major community-based organization serving the Dominican Community in the United States. He is co-founder and former Chairperson of the Board of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrants Rights. 
When asked to describe what he loves about the field of medicine, he reflected on the fact that the art of healing “provides me with the opportunity to restore health to another human being, regardless of race, ethnicity, or social economic status,” reaffirming his belief that “health care is not a privilege — it’s a human right.”
His message for the Class of 2021 is admirably concise and pertinent: “Take pride, thrive, and give back.”
Over the course of a long and distinguished career, Dr. Lantigua has put those words into practice.
Nelson Nuñez-Rodríguez, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Unit Coordinator in the Natural Sciences Department
Professor Nelson Nuñez-Rodríguez is an Associate Professor of Chemistry and Unit Coordinator in the Natural Sciences Department at Hostos. Nuñez-Rodríguez has taught at Hostos for 15 years, most often Chemistry I for Science and Engineering majors. He described his style of teaching as “controlled unpredictability” and he loves trying out new techniques aimed at boosting student engagement.
“I frequently open conversations based on difficult topics that could bring me and students to intellectually untamed territories for all of us,” he said, pointing out that teaching is a lifelong process for students and teachers alike.
His work at Hostos also includes serving as a co-chair of the College’s Middle States Commission on Higher Nelson Nunez-RodriguezEducation (MSCHE) accreditation process. It’s a complicated and lengthy process designed to evaluate the institution’s effectiveness at meetings its stated goals and how those goals correspond to the larger educational community.
It’s a challenging task, Nuñez-Rodríguez admits, but one he relishes and appreciates. “MSCHE engagement expands my horizons to find authentic ways to validate our service to the students,” he said.
Nuñez-Rodríguez will receive the President’s Medal at this year’s commencement ceremony — a sure sign of the scope and scale of his achievements at Hostos. “This medal, together with the generosity of students and colleagues working with me, teaching me, and collaborating with me, reassures my enthusiasm to teach in the classroom or serve in other duties outside it,” he shared.
For Nuñez-Rodríguez, what sets Hostos apart is its student population. “Their joy, their myriad of life experiences, and their tenacity to forge a better future despite challenging life realities,” he said.
That tenacity reminds him of lines from one of his favorite poems:
Yo seré como el río,
que se despeña y choca,
y salta y se retuerce...
¡Pero llega al mar!
(I will be like the river,
which falls and crashes,
and jumps and twists…
But it reaches the sea!)
  • Yo seré como el Río, que se despeña y choca, y salta y se retuerce . . . !Pero llega al mar!” Dulce Maria Loynaz. Poesía Completa (2002 edition/Letras Cubanas/Spain).
Frank Virone, Chief Administrative Superintendent of Campus Operations
Over the course of his 27 years at Hostos, Frank Virone has faced a number of challenges as Chief Administrative Superintendent of Campus Operations but none, perhaps, has been as all-encompassing as COVID-19. Keeping the College’s facilities safe, clean, and well maintained during a pandemic is no ordinary task.
Virone didn’t view it as a challenge — he viewed it as a mission. “My staff has the talent and expertise necessary to engineer, design, fabricate and install all that would be required,” he said. “The funding was made available to execute all that we planned to do. The only issue that was out of our control was the availability and timely delivery of materials. The rest was a labor of love.”
Frank VironeVirone is the epitome of a team player. Getting the job done — and done right — is where he places his focus, and it has been ever since he began at Hostos as a Chief Engineer in 2004. Virone’s dedication will be honored at this year’s commencement ceremony when he receives the President’s Medal for almost three decades of service to the Hostos community. Admitting that he’s “not one for the limelight,” Virone finds that his greatest satisfaction “comes from doing good work and making a better place for future generations.”
Numbered among those future generations are his two daughters, one of whom is a CUNY graduate and Senior Marketing Engineer at MTV. His younger daughter is currently pursuing a master’s degree at St. John’s University. Watching them navigate their college lives has had a major impact on Virone. He believes every student who enters Hostos should get the very best the College has to offer so they, like his daughters, can achieve success in the classroom and in the greater world.
Making sure that the College grounds and buildings present their best face to the world is many things — but it’s never boring.
“I love the people,” Virone said. “I love the diversity and I truly enjoy coming to work. Every day is something different. Every day I’m learning something new.”
Virone is ready to roll up his sleeves and bring his best to whatever task or situation the day presents him. “The way to get started,” he said, “is to, quit talking and start doing.”
Kate Wolfe, Associate Professor of Psychology
Kate Wolfe, Associate Professor of Psychology in the Behavioral and Social Sciences Department at Hostos, knows exactly what makes Hostos such a special place: “Its people and its mission,” she explained. Over the course of her nine years at the College, she’s had plenty of time to study — and influence — both. “There are many wonderful colleagues at the College,” she said, “and the students are great; they’re determined to better their lives.”
The way Hostos helps students do that is something Wolfe is monitoring as co-chair of the Middle States Kate WolfeCommission on Higher Education’s Self-Study, a three-year process of accreditation. (Nelson Nuñez Rodríguez is the other co-chair.) The Self-Study, Wolfe said, “is our opportunity to become better. It will show us how to improve Hostos so we meet the needs of our students. Hostos has much to be proud of and we can use the MSCHE to build a more sustainable future.”
For her efforts in the classroom and as a crucial figure in the MSCHE journey, Wolfe will receive the President’s Medal at this year’s commencement ceremony. Wolfe is honored to be one of the recipients. “The President's acknowledgement of our hard work through this medal is not only heartwarming but it shows her generosity of spirit. I am grateful to be a part of the Hostos community,” she shared.
Wolfe teaches General Psychology, Social Psychology, Lifespan Development, and Psychology of Women. The latter two classes are taught “as a Writing Intensive course,” she explained. “I love the energy of the classroom and the personal interaction with my students. I love learning from them… Building a learning community with the reciprocal respect and learning is the best.” 
Wolfe is a strong believer in something Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez once said: "Justice is about making sure that being polite is not the same thing as being quiet. In fact, often times, the most righteous thing you can do is shake the table.”
Wolfe is ready to shake any and all tables if it supports the College’s mission. “What can be better than helping students make their lives better by helping them increase their social mobility?” she asked. “Everything we do at the college is focused on student success.”