As I walk across York’s campus this time of year I love watching our students scurry inside. Most are looking to escape the cold and retreat into warm libraries or sip hot coffees, rigorously preparing for finals. This time of year is among my favorite, and in many ways, much like the weather, it’s strikingly bittersweet.
As you may have heard, tragedy befell York College this semester, as we laid to rest Manuel Luna Ceron, a student and friend. There is nothing more painful as a college president than to have to share the news with your students that one of their classmates has died. We all feel the pain of this loss and we have to search in our hearts and minds for new beginnings.
This season, York’s campus is teeming with silver linings. We boast an incredibly diverse student body – our classmates hail from over 100 countries, and many of them are the first in their family to attend college. I’m filled with hope when I reflect on the story of Robert Fernandez, a former undocumented immigrant.
After transferring to York College from Union County College and under the guidance of Professor Anne Simon and others, through York’s standout biology program, Robert harnessed a passion for science. He recently received his “green card,” while studying for his Ph.D. in Biochemistry at Yale University.
Here at York College, we know that other students like Robert have the potential to succeed. We are proud when our students go on to accomplish wonderful things in their lives and careers, and as educators we are inspired by their remarkable stories.
This year we were able to watch our alumni give back in such meaningful ways. We listened as Ray Warren, ’76, now an executive at NBC, who co-founded the original York College radio station, WYCR, made a generous contribution to help breathe new life into the updated campus station, YCradio.org. We named new members to our Foundation Board, intent on ensuring the doors of York College are always open to students desiring of education, and we chose Michele Chow-Tai, ’99, to serve at the helm of the board.
We beamed with pride as Dr. Holger Henke, our assistant provost, was awarded with an Administrative Fulbright Fellowship and Dr. Selena Rodgers, a beloved social work professor, received a Fulbright Fellowship, which she fulfilled in the Republic of Moldova and in South Africa.
I am also delighted to add that York was also chosen as a site for Governor Andrew Cuomo’s initiative, Start-Up New York; and I was asked to serve on the transition team for Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio.
Throughout the holiday season, we reflect upon the past and plan for an even more successful future, finding innovative ways to expand its reach in the community and the world. I’m proud of all that our students, faculty and administration have accomplished this past year, and look forward to exciting new developments in 2014.