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Lehman College: City University of New York
December 21, 2016

A Message from Lehman College President José Luis Cruz
Happy holidays! As I noted in my recent holiday video message, your hard work and many accomplishments this semester have positioned us well for the year that will undoubtedly be ours: 2017. In the meantime, I wanted to update you on my most recent activities.

Public Affairs and External Relations

In late November, I met with one of Lehman’s most celebrated alumni, Representative Eliot L. Engel (B.A., ’69; M.A., ’73), who has served his native Bronx, as well as parts of Westchester County in Congress since 1989 and is currently the ranking minority member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. I also met with President Thomas A. Isekenegbe of Bronx Community College and Macaulay Honors College Dean Mary Corliss Pearl to discuss the development of CUNY’s first Macaulay Honors transfer program.

Earlier this month I discussed possible collaborations with Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education—a Washington D.C. advocacy organization; attended a CUNY Citizenship Now! event at Tracey Towers, organized by Councilmember Andrew Cohen, who represents the Bronx district that includes Lehman College. I also welcomed Bronx-based entrepreneurs to our campus as part of an event co-sponsored by our own Bronx Small Business Development Center, the Bronx Borough President’s Office, and City Hall. Participants learned how to apply for New York City contracts; increasing the number of such contracts awarded to minority- and women-owned businesses is a stated priority of Mayor Bill de Blasio. I also met with Gregory Long, president and CEO of the New York Botanical Garden, and other NYBG officials to discuss future collaborations. Finally I was honored to attend City & State magazine’s Bronx Borough 50 event where, as the president of Lehman College, I was recognized among the 50 most influential people in the Bronx.

College, University, and Community Events

This month, I was pleased to attend the 15th anniversary celebration of the Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies (CLACLS) at the CUNY Graduate Center, where I celebrated the work of the Center’s founder, Lehman College Distinguished Professor Laird W. Bergad. I also visited with various Lehman College faculty members at CUNY’s Salute to Scholars event, hosted by Chancellor James B. Milliken at the Graduate Center; enjoyed an informative keynote lecture by Professor Eleanore Wurtzel, based on her recent article “How Global Health Problems Are Being Solved Through Plant Biology” in the prestigious journal Science; and attended the Department of Physics and Astronomy’s Fall 2016 reception where I learned about the fascinating work on black hole batteries led by Dr. Janna Levin, Claire Tow Professor of Astronomy and Physics, Barnard College-Columbia University.

More recently, I was pleased to attend the New York City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Scholarship Awards Dinner where I presented the Bronx Lebanon Scholarship award to Lehman student Cristian Sanchez and enjoyed an evening in the company of CUNY Trustees Fernando Ferrer and Rita DiMartino and fellow CUNY presidents Felix Matos Rodriguez (Queens College) and Thomas A. Isekengbe (Bronx Community College); took in a concert by the Lehman College Community Chorus and Lehman Symphony Orchestra; was honored to read for the annual Handel’s Messiah by the Bronx Opera; and experienced the camaraderie of the Lehman campus community at the College’s annual Christmas tree lighting and the annual Lehman College Holiday party.

Shared Governance

I also continued to meet with various groups and committees across the campus to increase collaboration and transparency in the day-to-day operations of the College. With that in mind, I met with the General Faculty Executive Committee and presented a report at the most recent General Faculty meeting; attended a meeting of IT Managers to discuss the needs and goals of that division; presided over the last fall meeting of our College Senate; participated in a PSC labor-management meeting; and met with many of our outstanding student leaders.

The work with CUNY Central has proven to be productive. In the past few weeks, I participated in various meetings and discussions ranging from the impact of the 2016 presidential election on our campus communities to the University’s response to increased calls for efficiency, transparency, and accountability.

Organizational Updates

On November 23, I provided an update on previously announced personnel transitions. Today, I am happy to report on our progress to date.

First, I am pleased to announce that effective January 3, 2017, Dennis DaCosta will serve as Lehman College’s Special Counsel. He will bring nearly two decades of experience in both the private and public sectors. Most recently, he was employed with the New York City Department of Education first as a Supervising Attorney then as the Deputy Director of the Teacher Performance Unit where he oversaw the work of fourteen attorneys, participated in labor/management meetings, and conducted investigations. I want to thank the search committee members: Professor Duane Tananbaum of the History department; Dawn Ewing-Morgan, Office of the President; John Holloway, dean of students; Eric Washington; director of Human Resources; Deborah Rhem-Jackson, Academic Affairs, and outgoing Special Counsel Mary Rogan for their hard work filling this important position.

Second, the search for our new Dean of Students is well underway. The review of candidates will begin in the first week of January and will continue until the position is filled. The search committee is chaired by Michael Sullivan, director of Campus Life. Committee members include: Laurie Austin, director of Admissions; Professor Carl Mazza, Social Work department; Janelle Hill, director of Strategic Initiatives; Dawn Ewing-Morgan, Office of the President; and a Lehman student.

Third, our work to align our organizational structure with our institutional priorities continues. In recent weeks, Interim Provost Harriet Fayne and Associate Provost Davina Porock have met with faculty and staff to reconceptualize how the Office of the Provost supports the work of schools and academic departments. Provost Fayne will continue to update the campus community on this work through her series of curated emails to faculty.

Fourth, we continue to refine our thinking around the work of the Division of Institutional Advancement, given Vice President Mario DellaPina’s announced retirement next spring, and will provide an update on this front in early January.

While I very much look forward to spending time with my extended family over the winter break, I must say that I will miss our work together and will be eager to continue our collective journey toward cementing our place as the most important, mission-critical senior college of the world’s premier public urban university.


José Luis Cruz, Ph.D.
President, Lehman College
The City University of New York