Message from Chancellor Milliken on CUNY Trustee Appointments

“We are grateful to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo for nominating six outstanding New Yorkers to the Board of Trustees of The City University of New York, and we are pleased that they have been promptly confirmed by the New York Senate. New Chairperson William Thompson is well known for his demonstrated commitment to public education as the gateway of opportunity. All of the new Trustees have solid records of leadership in the public and private sectors and are clearly committed to a successful, vibrant CUNY. Together with their other colleagues on the Board of Trustees, they will bring the experience and wisdom that will help ensure that the University continues to effectively serve the best interests of over half a million students.”

Chancellor Milliken expressed his appreciation to outgoing members of the CUNY Board of Trustees, and in particular former Chairperson Benno Schmidt. “Benno has earned the respect and admiration of all New Yorkers for his remarkable tenure on the CUNY Board, including 13 years as Chair,” the Chancellor said. “He will leave a legacy of significant reform, reflecting his unwavering commitment to academic quality and opportunity for all students.”

The Chancellor also praised outgoing Vice Chairperson Philip A. Berry for a decade of distinguished service; Trustee Valerie Beal for 14 years of exemplary service; Trustee Hugo Morales, who served with distinction for a dozen years, and Trustee Freida Foster, who served for nearly 10 years. “CUNY has been well served by their dedication, integrity, and commitment to the University’s timeless mission. These are exciting times for CUNY, which occupies an enviable position today in large part because of the thoughtful work of these long-serving Trustees.”

Chancellor Milliken also expressed gratitude to Mayor Bill de Blasio for his nomination of Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, the 65th Secretary of State of New York and the first Hispanic to hold that post. “For decades, she has held prominent leadership positions in government, Latino affairs, the private sector and major nonprofits doing important work in the community,” Chancellor Milliken said of Trustee Cortés-Vázquez. She currently serves as Senior Vice President, Corporate Relations & Government Affairs at Emblem Health, is a Hunter College graduate and was co-founder of the CUNY/SUNY Model Senate of Somos el Futuro. Cortes-Vazquez will replace Carol Robles-Roman, President and CEO of Legal Momentum, a legal nonprofit advancing the rights of women and girls, whom Chancellor Milliken praised for her 14 years” of “exemplary, dedicated service” on the Board.

The new CUNY Trustees are:

William C. Thompson, Jr., Chairperson

Mr. Thompson served two consecutive, four-year terms as Comptroller for the City of New York from 2002 until 2009. In that role, he led a team of 720 employees, managed a $66 million annual operating budget and the country’s fifth largest pension fund, a multi-billion-dollar fund that was rated among the top 20 in the world. As New York City Comptroller Thompson was the custodian and investment advisor to the five Boards of Trustees of the five New York City Pension Funds. They include the New York City Employees’ Retirement System; the Teachers’ Retirement System of the City of New York; the New York City Police Pension Fund; the New York City Fire Department Pension Fund, and the New York City Board of Education Retirement System.
Prior, he served as Brooklyn Deputy Borough President from 1983 to 1992. He was a five-term President of the New York City Board of Education from 1996 until 2001, and a Board member from 1994 to 2001. As Board of Education President, Thompson worked closely with CUNY officials to expand the University’s College Now program, which enables public high school students to take college courses. College Now, which enrolled 449 students from a few Brooklyn high schools when it started in fall 1984, today serves more than 20,000 students and partners with 400 high schools. University officials credit Thompson for his support in helping to facilitate the rebuilding of Borough of Manhattan Community College’s Fiterman Hall, irreparably damaged during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
In February 2010, New York Governor David Paterson named Mr. Thompson to serve as Chairman of the Board of The Hugh L. Carey Battery Park City Authority, a position he held until 2012. He previously served on the New York State Gaming Facility Location Board. In 2011, Governor Cuomo selected Mr. Thompson to Chair his MWBE (Minority and Women-Owned Business) Task Force. Since 2015, he has served as the Chairman of the New York State Housing Finance Agency and Chairman of the State of New York Mortgage Agency. 

Mr. Thompson is currently a partner at Siebert Brandford Shank where he underwrites loans for schools, roads, bridges and infrastructure projects. He is a Trustee Emeritus at Tufts University and a former Board Member of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation and KeySpan/Brooklyn Union Gas Company. He is a graduate of Tufts University.

Chairperson Thompson replaces Trustee Peter Pantaleo and his term runs until 2022.

Fernando Ferrer

Mr. Ferrer served as the Bronx Borough President for almost 15 years, from 1987 to 2001. During his tenure, he created housing for about 66,000 families. The borough also saw a significant drop in crime, particularly in the South Bronx, and a steady rise in business and real estate investment. As Bronx Borough President Ferrer also funded several notable improvement projects at CUNY colleges in the borough. At Lehman College, he targeted $455,000 to upgrade the video journalism center and $436,000 for security fencing around the campus perimeter. At Hostos Community College, he allocated nearly $300,000 to upgrade computers. However, Ferrer’s largest CUNY projects were at Bronx Community College where he funded a $641,000 renovation of the auditorium of Gould Memorial Library, a breathtaking recreation of the Roman Pantheon constructed in the 1890s by New York University, which sold the campus to CUNY in 1973. Ferrer, an alumnus of that NYU campus, also funded $138,000 for a massive restoration of the college’s Hall of Fame for Great Americans, overlooking the Hudson River.

Prior to being elected Bronx Borough President, Mr. Ferrer served in the New York City Council where he represented communities in the North Bronx from 1982 until 1987.
Mr. Ferrer currently serves as Vice-Chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority and served as Acting Chairman of the MTA in 2013. He is a Partner and Co-Chairman of Mercury Public Affairs, LLC. He also serves as Director of Sterling Bancorp and Sterling National Bank, a Sterling Bancorp subsidiary. He was the President of Drum Major Institute for Public Policy from 2002 to 2004.
He earned a B.A. from the University Heights College of Arts and Sciences of New York University, and an M.P.A. degree from Baruch College/CUNY. Mr. Ferrer has been awarded honorary degrees from Manhattan, Mercy, Herbert H. Lehman and Metropolitan Colleges.
Mr. Ferrer replaces Trustee Valerie Beal. His term runs to 2023.

Mayra Linares-Garcia

Mayra Linares-Garcia is Director of Public Affairs and Communications for New York and Puerto Rico at The Coca-Cola Company. Prior to that she served as Director of Latino Affairs in the office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. From 2011 to 2015 she was Citizen Services Representative in the Cuomo administration, working on community affairs with a focus on the Latino community throughout New York State, including Latino outreach and building and improving the government’s relationships with New York’s communities.

A prominent member of the Washington Heights, Inwood and Marble Hill political fabric, Ms. Linares-Garcia was a member of the Executive Board of the Concerned Democratic Coalition of Northern Manhattan and was active on the Judiciary Committee regarding judicial appointments. She was the recipient of the Coalition’s Community Service Award for Outstanding Leadership in 2007. She served as a Democratic District Leader for the 72nd Assembly District from 2001- 2011, representing the Inwood/Washington Heights area. Her responsibilities included helping select civil court judges for primaries, getting out the vote, and appointing Election Day voting inspectors. She also served as liaison between the community and elected Democratic Party officials. In 1996 Ms. Linares-Garcia was elected as a member of the Democratic County Committee, where she served for five years.

From 2008-2010 Ms. Linares-Garcia was a member of the Executive Board, and then Chair of the Community Association of Progressive Dominicans (ACDP), which focuses on social services in northern Manhattan and the Bronx including mental health, education/adult education, youth development, immigration, citizenship, housing, economic development, daycare and a food pantry. From 2007-2011 she was President and CEO of The Maylin Group, Inc., a public relations firm specializing in corporate/community partnerships. She also served as Director of Community Relations at World Vision, Inc., an international relief agency, where she was responsible for cultivating partnerships and alliances between World Vision’s New York operations and their targeted constituencies, including community and faith-based organizations in the Bronx and Manhattan. She has coordinated international disaster relief efforts between the city’s immigrant communities and organizations that aid afflicted areas, and has been active in the movement to bring social, political and economic equity to New York City communities.

She received her B.A. in political science from Marymount Manhattan College in 2001.

Ms. Linares-Garcia replaces former Chairperson Benno Schmidt as a Trustee. Her term runs to 2020.

Robert F. Mujica Jr.

Mr. Mujica is Budget Director for the New York State Division of the Budget. Previously, he was Chief of Staff to the Temporary President and Majority Leader of the Senate and concurrently serves as the Secretary to the Senate Finance Committee. For 19 years while serving under three Majority Leaders, Mr. Mujica has advised various elected and other government officials in New York on State budget, fiscal and policy issues. As Chief of Staff, he was responsible for coordinating activities among the Senate’s policy, counsel, and communications offices on behalf of the Senate leadership.

In addition, as Secretary to the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate’s chief fiscal advisor, his responsibilities include leading a team of analysts and economists to examine and develop budgeting and fiscal/tax policy proposals for the Senate Majority.

Mr. Mujica was the Senate’s chief staff liaison to the Governor’s office, state agencies and the state Assembly, and the lead negotiator responsible for all state budget and policy negotiations on behalf of the Senate leadership. He received his B.A. from Brooklyn College/CUNY, a master’s in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania and a J.D. from Albany Law School.

Mr. Mujica replaces Trustee Hugo Morales. His term runs to 2021.

Ken Sunshine

Mr. Sunshine is co-CEO and founder of Sunshine Sachs Consultants. He started as a community organizer and became a district delegate for Senator George McGovern. He then ran the public relations department of ASCAP, where he supervised music events. In the 1970s, he joined Bella Abzug’s Senate, mayoral and congressional campaigns. From 1990 to 1993, Mr. Sunshine served as the chief of staff for Mayor David Dinkins, a job that included managing future New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. In 1994, he worked on Mario Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaign and is an advisor to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

In 1991, Mr. Sunshine launched the public relations firm Ken Sunshine Consultants. The company was renamed in 1992 to reflect principal Shawn Sachs’s partnership. Sunshine Sachs specializes in corporate image programs, crisis communication, reputation management and issues management, consumer and lifestyle marketing, public affairs, media relations, event promotion, and communications skills training. In 2014, Sunshine Sachs was named the number one public relations agency in New York by the New York Observer.

Mr. Sunshine’s clients have included Barbra Streisand, Ben Affleck and the Michael Jackson estate. Mr. Sunshine graduated from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations of Cornell University in 1970, where he was involved in activities to promote social and political change.

Mr. Sunshine replaces Trustee Freida Foster. His term runs to 2019.

Sandra Wilkin

Ms. Wilkin, Founder and President of Bradford Companies, has built Bradford Construction Corporation into one of the leading women-owned construction firms – earning her the title of “a hard hat with style” from Crain’s New York Business. She has been a passionate advocate for the advancement of women, minorities and small businesses in the industry. Ms. Wilkin was responsible for the “disparity study” funded by the New York City Council, which provided objective proof of the need to direct construction dollars, subcontracting opportunities and technical support to minority and women-owned business firms.

As a founder and President of the Women Builders Council, Ms. Wilkin has been involved in advancing the role of women in the public and private sectors of the construction and building fields. She developed the Council’s campaign “to break the concrete ceiling” for women. Her involvement and that of the Council has had a strong impact on public policy. A popular speaker on women and small business issues in the industry, she often serves as a mentor and strategic advisor to emerging firms.

Her many honors include the Women Business Enterprise of the Year Award from the New York City School Construction Authority; the Arthur Pearl Roth Trailblazer Award from the Regional Alliance for Small Contractors; recognition by Professional Women in Construction; the General Contractors Association Award for work on PS 69 in Queens; the Luis Munoz Marin Elementary Schools’ Partners in Education Award; and admittance to the Kingsborough Community College Wall of Fame.

She was only the second woman, after Golda Meir, to receive the Lubavitch Youth Organization’s Woman of Valor Award for her “Commitment and dedication to helping people of all ages, regardless of race, religion, color or creed, find meaning and direction in life.” Her company was honored for its participation in a unique alliance with the New York Building Congress, building trades and union apprenticeship programs that provided much needed renovations to Peter’s Place, Manhattan’s only drop-in-center for elderly homeless. Ms. Wilkin serves on the Board of Governors of the New York Building Foundation and was the first woman to serve on the Executive Board of the Regional Alliance for Small Contractors. She also helped create the first African American Designer Showcase in Harlem to provide broader exposure for emerging designers, and served on the Board of Directors for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.

A Brooklyn native, she is a graduate of Kingsborough Community College/CUNY who went on to earn a bachelor of science in business and public administration from New York University, a bachelor of science in nursing from Hunter College/CUNY, and a construction management certificate from NYU.

Ms. Wilkin replaces Trustee Philip Berry. Her term runs to 2023.

Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez

Ms. Cortés-Vázquez, Senior Vice President, Corporate Relations & Government Affairs at Emblem Health, was the 65th Secretary of State of New York, serving in the Cabinet of Governor David Paterson. She originally served in the Cabinet of former Governor Eliot Spitzer and remained in office following Mr. Paterson’s assumption of the governorship. Ms. Cortés-Vázquez, who is of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent, is the first Hispanic/Latino to serve as New York’s Secretary of State, and only the second person of Puerto Rican ancestry to become the Secretary of State in a state of the U.S.

Ms. Cortés-Vázquez is the former Executive Vice President for Multicultural Markets & Engagement at AARP, and also served as Vice President for Government and Public Affairs with Cablevision.

Her extensive government service includes having served on the New York State Board of Regents for eight years. She was also Chief of Staff to former New York Assemblyman Roberto Ramirez.

In addition, she oversaw the Puerto Rican Hispanic Task Force and the Somos El Futuro Conference; served on the New York Redistricting Commission; served on the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board; and worked at the New York City Department for the Aging’s Bureau of Program and Resource Development. As DFTA’s Bureau Chief, she facilitated public and private partnerships within the agency and increased the number of community-based service providers, while ensuring they were held to the same standards as City and State facilities. Earlier in her career, she held a variety of social impact positions in East Harlem.

Ms. Cortés-Vázquez has served as President of the Hispanic Federation, a non-profit network of over 90 Latino health and human service agencies aiding more than three million Latinos annually. In the early 1990’s, she was the Executive Director of ASPIRA of New York, the oldest and largest non-profit Latino youth leadership development and education advocacy agency in the nation. Her career in the nonprofit, government and corporate sectors extends more than 30 years and she is nationally recognized for her work in the non-profit sector. She also has extensive experience organizing major community awareness and civic participation educational partnership campaigns. She is the co-founder of the CUNY/SUNY Model Senate of Somos el Futuro.

A graduate of Hunter College/CUNY, Ms. Cortés-Vázquez earned her master’s degree at New York University’s Graduate School of Public Service, and certificates from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and Columbia University’s School of Non-Profit Management.

Ms. Cortés-Vázquez succeeds Trustee Carol Robles-Román, and her term runs until 2022.