With Its Fortieth Commencement, Hostos Reaches a Historic Milestone

With Its Fortieth Commencement,

Hostos Reaches a Historic Milestone

Ubiñas, Quezada and Early College Graduates

Exemplify Aspiration, Determination and Leadership

Monday, June 6, 2011 (New York, NY) – With the Fortieth Commencement Ceremony held last Thursday, Eugenio María de Hostos Community College reached a historic milestone in the fulfillment of its educational, cultural and civic mission. The 761-member graduating class, which was the largest in Hostos’ history, included the first 35 students from the Hostos Lincoln Academy (the college’s affiliated high school) to complete the Early College program, thereby qualifying for an associate in arts degree. The keynote speaker, Mr. Luis Ubiñas, President of the Ford Foundation, and the President’s Medal recipient, renowned singer and CCNY alumna Milly Quezada, stressed the importance of a sense of purpose and the value of education.

“I have been telling you that this is a historic occasion and history is tied to memory, so today I invite you to remember,” said Hostos president Félix V. Matos Rodríguez.  “To remember where you came from and how hard but fulfilling your road to success has been. To remember the dreams that brought you here and to have the self-confidence to fulfill those dreams and aim for new heights with the skills and the lessons learned at Hostos.  To remember that without public institutions that invest in the talent and potential of New Yorkers, our entire collective future quality of life and standard of living are placed in jeopardy,”

Professor Diana Díaz served as Mistress of Ceremonies for the commencement and Professor Juan Preciado was the Grand Marshal. Following the academic procession, President Matos Rodriguez introduced and acknowledged the members of his executive cabinet as well as Mr. Ubiñas, Ms. Quezada, and other dignitaries in attendance.

Of Mr. Ubiñas, President Matos said: “We are honored to have with us tonight someone who has been a true champion of social justice, equity, and innovation.  Throughout his distinguished career, Mr. Ubiñas has advocated for and participated in bringing about fundamental changes in our society to advance ideals of justice, fairness, service, and accountability.  He is a magnificent example of how education can empower us to attain our innate potential and a wonderful leader who exemplifies the Hostos mission that supports the transformation of individuals by promoting and fostering academic excellence, diversity, and professional advancement, and also by inspiring perseverance.”

Mr. Ubiñas, who grew up in the South Bronx and is a graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Business School, is the first Latino to lead the Ford Foundation, which is dedicated to reducing poverty, strengthening democracy and international cooperation, and advancing human achievement.  While Ubiñas  was chosen for this position on the basis of his personal accomplishments and proven leadership, Matos indicated that “we can still be proud that one of our own—a ‘non-traditional choice­’ if you will—heads the institution with probably the greatest influence on progressive programs in this country and abroad.”

Following the keynote address, President Matos Rodríguez presented the President’s Medal, the highest honor Hostos Community College bestows, to Milly Quezada, in recognition of her sustained and acknowledged contributions to the college and the community it serves. Quezada’s stature as the undisputed “Queen of Merengue” was not earned by her phenomenal singing voice alone.  At a time when most Latino musical genres were dominated by male performers and group leaders, she made history as the driving creative force behind “Milly Jocelyn & Los Vecinos,” which introduced the use of female vocalists in the male-dominated rhythm of merengue.  Her greatest gift was music, and by going beyond the role of interpreter, Quezada shared a unique and invaluable aspect of Dominican culture with the world.  “We are proud that tonight an alumna of our sister institution, The City College of New York, will be recognized with the Hostos Community College President’s Medal,” said Matos Rodríguez.

The Ceremony, which was held on Thursday, June 2, 2011 at The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, was attended by many distinguished guests, including Senator Charles E. Schumer; New York Comptroller John Liu; Mr. Philip Alfonso Berry, Vice Chairman of the CUNY Board of Trustees: and Dr. Eduardo J. Martí, CUNY’s Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges.