Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta will receive a special award at a dinner Saturday, December 8, in The Great Hall of The City College of New York to celebrate the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute’s (CUNY-DSI) 15th Anniversary. Approximately 500 CUNY graduates of Dominican descent are expected to attend the event, which is also a salute to CUNY’s Dominican alumni, whose numbers exceed 35,000.

Dominican-born Mr. de la Renta will be honored for his extraordinary achievements and contributions to the Dominican people and the world at large. The famed designer, who designs and licenses products ranging from men and women’s apparel to fragrances to furniture and other home furnishings, has given back to his native land, building two schools that incorporate orphanages and day care centers. He also serves on the boards of The Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, Thirteen/WNET, UNICEF, The Americas Society and The Spanish Institute.

Dr. Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Provost and Senior Vice President of Hostos Community College will speak on behalf of CUNY alumni of Dominican descent. Other speakers include CUNY Chancellor Dr. Matthew Goldstein, CUNY Trustee Hugo Morales and CCNY President Dr. Gregory H. Williams. Jay Hershenson, CUNY Senior Vice Chancellor, University Relations, and Isolda Peguero, national correspondent with NBC/Telemundo, are the masters of ceremonies.

“CUNY is second in the world only to Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo in producing Dominican college graduates,” said Dr. Ramona Hernández, Director of CUNY-DSI and CCNY Professor of Sociology and a CUNY graduate. Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo is the Dominican Republic’s largest university and the oldest institution of higher education in the western hemisphere.

“What City College represented to Jews and Italians as a pathway to upward mobility in the early 20th Century, CUNY represents for Dominicans today,” Professor Hernández noted, citing the strong connection between Dominican Americans and CUNY. “It is no wonder that the array of Dominican CUNY graduates is as varied as the Dominican population in the United States.”

For example, Henry Dancygier was a refuge from Europe whose family found a safe haven from the Nazis during World War II in Sosúa, on the Dominican Republic’s northern coast. In 1950, his family came to the United States and he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from City College in 1962. Mr. Dancygier went on to help build the Lunar Excursion Model at Grumman Corp. on Long Island and later worked for state and city environmental agencies.

Frank Minaya y Willmore, a direct descendent of free North American slaves brought to the Dominican Republic in the early 1800s, holds a M.S. in School Administration from The City College. Today he is President of Samaná College and Training Center, which promotes study in the Dominican Republic for U.S. students, and was appointed by Assemblyman Keith Wright to serve on the New York State Amistad Commission.

Other CUNY graduates of Dominican heritage include: Dr. Guillermo Linares, New York City Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs; New York City Councilman Miguel Martínez; Dr. Silvio Torres-Saillant, Director of the Latino and Latin American Studies Program at Syracuse University, and supermarket entrepreneur Mariano Díaz.

The CUNY Dominican Studies Institute was founded in 1992 by the Council of Dominican Educators, community activists and other academics from CUNY, to address the lack of reputable information on Dominicans available to students, scholars, and the community at large in the United States. It is the first and only university-based research institution in the United States focusing on the study of Dominican life outside of the Dominican Republic.

The Institute gathers, produces and disseminates academic knowledge, from an interdisciplinary as well as a comparative perspective, on the human experience of people residing in the United States who trace their ancestry to the Dominican Republic, and advances research and teaching at the City University of New York, focusing on the Dominican population in the United States and elsewhere.

Since its inception, CUNY-DSI has sponsored or cosponsored more than 80 conferences and symposia on diverse topics in various disciplines. Through its groundbreaking research, published as books and monographs, and its Archives and Library, the Institute has helped raise the visibility of The City College of New York, where it is based and of CUNY.

The City College campus is in close proximity to Washington Heights and Inwood, two Manhattan neighborhoods with the largest concentrations of Dominicans living in the United States.

The City University of New York and Luis Canela, Chief Executive Officer of BPD Bank, are major benefactors for the dinner. Dr. Hugo Morales, a Trustee of The City University of New York and Theodore H. Kheel, Founder of the Dominican American Cultural Interchange Foundation are the event’s co-chairs.

Contact: Ellis Simon, 212/650-6460,