On June 7, 2013, Eugenio María de Hostos Community College of The City University of New York (CUNY) held its largest commencement ceremony to date, conferring a record number of 907 degrees in the New York City Center. Unquestionably, this was a high point of Hostos’ 45th anniversary year.
This Commencement was also noteworthy in that United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was the speaker. Hostos President Félix V. Matos Rodríguez congratulated the graduates and welcomed their families and friends to the ceremony. The class of 2013 included 14 seniors from the Hostos Lincoln Academy, one of CUNY’s Early College Initiative High Schools, who successfully completed the challenging college-preparatory curriculum that will entitle them to an associate’s degree after their high school diplomas are conferred.
Acknowledging Secretary Duncan’s longstanding commitment to public education at all levels, particularly in economically challenged areas such the South Bronx, President Matos Rodríguez said Hostos could not have asked for a more appropriate commencement speaker. Secretary Duncan, who played professional basketball in Australia, was also made an honorary captain of the Hostos Caimans basketball team.
“When those of you who are members of the class of 2013 enrolled at Hostos two or more years ago, you were motivated by the belief, or at least the hope, that a college education would be your route to a bright future,” President Matos Rodríguez said. “Some of you came here already aspiring to a particular profession and followed a direct academic pathway that has brought you to the threshold of a career. Others chose to approach the Hostos curriculum like explorers, venturing into various fields before arriving unexpectedly at an exciting destination. Either route is as good as the other, as long as one is making steady progress toward the goal of a college degree. After all, that’s why you came here, and your aspirations have been our inspiration.”
Congratulating the graduates, Secretary Duncan urged them to make a difference. “No one is an island,” he said. “You should all strive to be patriots of humanity.”
The Secretary called Hostos a model for higher learning, praising such projects as the Hostos Lincoln Academy, and faculty members like Rees Shad, who was named state professor of the year by the Carnegie Foundation, and Cynthia Jones, a dedicated English professor who has been with Hostos for decades.
A highlight of the 42nd Commencement Ceremony was a moving speech by Valedictorian David N. Ramos. Born with HIV, Ramos never met his father, lost his mother at an early age, and battled cancer successfully when he was only 13. In spite of these obstacles and having foundered in his first attempt at college, Ramos persisted and graduated from Hostos with a 4.0 GPA and an A.S. degree in Forensic Accounting. He plans to continue his studies by pursuing a B.S. degree in Economics: Forensic Financial Analysis at The John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
In his valedictory address, Ramos also spoke about his family ties to Hostos. His grandmother Carmen E. Arroyo, the first Puerto Rican and Hispanic woman elected to the New York State Assembly, and his aunt, New York City Councilwoman María del Carmen Arroyo, are both Hostos graduates.
Ramos said he embraced his second chance at Hostos, telling the audience that he “needed and wanted that challenge.” He urged his classmates to continue their higher education journeys, earn more degrees, and to “pay it forward,” to make their communities better places.
“Don’t stop here,” Ramos said. “I am living proof that anything is possible.”
Also participating in the 42nd Commencement were the following:
45th Anniversary Grand Marshal, Associate Dean Steven Delgado; 42nd Commencement Grand Marshal, Professor América Trinidad; Mistress of Ceremonies, Professor Linda Hirsch; CUNY Trustees Representative, Mr. Philip Alfonso Berry, Vice Chair; CUNY Senior Vice Chancellor, Mr. Jay Hershenson, CUNY Vice Chancellor, Vice Chancellor Gloriana B. Waters; Invocation Presenter, Professor Mary Manning; Benediction Presenter, Mr. Jason Libfeld; Senior V.P. for Administration and Finance, Ms. Esther Rodríguez-Chardavoyne; Provost & V.P. for Academic Affairs, Dr. Carmen Coballes-Vega, V.P. for Student Development, Mr. Nathaniel Cruz; V.P. for Institutional Advancement, Ms. Ana Carrión-Silva; V.P. for Continuing Education and Workforce Development, Dr. Carlos Molina; Principal, Hostos Lincoln Academy, Mr. Nicholas Paarlberg; Early College Liaison, Hostos Lincoln Academy, Mr. David Johnson; Chair of the Hostos College-wide Senate, Professor Héctor López; President of the Student Government Association, Ms. Sandra-May Flowers; Chair of the Student Senate (SGA), Ms. Ruth Romero; Campus Ministry, Father James, Sheehan; Valedictorian, Mr. David Ramos; Salutatorian, Ms. Synthia Davis; U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (NY); New York State Assemblywoman Carmen E. Arroyo; New York City Councilwoman María del Carmen Arroyo; and New York City Comptroller John Liu.
To read U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s commencement address please visit: