President's Spring 2010 Letter to the CEOs
It is hard for me to believe that another school year is almost over, but May 27 will mark the college’s Eighty-Sixth Commencement. It has been a most exciting and rewarding time.
To begin with, the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) hailed Queens College as one of 15 public colleges and universities that can serve as a model for other institutions for the ways in which we help our students graduate within four years (just a third of all full-time college freshmen graduate in that timeframe). Only one other college in New York was named, and I am happy to say it was another CUNY college: the College of Staten Island. We are of course honored to be recognized by SREB.
Our campus has become a more exciting place to be, thanks to the opening of The Summit, our first residence hall. With students now on campus at all times, we have rethought the services we must offer them, and this has benefited all our students. Also, our Remsen Hall Annex opened this spring with state-of-the-art labs for the sciences. And we have been planting hundreds of trees to restore the orchard that used to thrive on campus (it was a very popular destination for students in our early years).
Since I became president in 2002, there has been a dramatic change in the makeup of our faculty as half of our current faculty has been hired during my tenure. And what a faculty we’ve hired. To give you just one example, the National Science Foundation has given five of our new faculty Early Career Awards, an unprecedented achievement.
These fine young faculty keep good company with our outstanding senior professors. Just recently they received two of the most prestigious awards given to scholars: Fred Gardaphe (English and Italian American Studies) received a Fulbright Scholar teaching fellowship to lecture at the University of Salerno in Italy, and Kimiko Hahn (English) was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship to work on her ninth volume of poetry. Also of note, geologist Cecilia McHugh was praised on the White House’s website for her scientific and humanitarian efforts in Haiti following the devastating earthquake there.
With such fine faculty it is no wonder that our students excel. Two of them, Erica Rodriguez and Emmanuel Dattan, have received summer research internships at Rockefeller University. Many members of the class of 2010 have been accepted into our nation’s finest PhD programs. For instance, Max Roll received a full scholarship to the Yale Drama School, Andrew Hillman is weighing offers to do postgraduate research at the National Institutes of Health or Emory University, and the list goes on. We are justifiably proud of the young men and women who attend the college.
And I think the feeling is mutual, as so many of our graduates return to campus to talk to our students. Among those this semester were New York Mets sportscaster Howie Rose, entrepreneur Howard Moskowitz (who recently won Sigma Xi’s 2010 Walston Chubb Award for Innovation), world-famous composer Bright Sheng, and many others. Our graduates have also been exceptionally generous. To cite one example, a bequest left to us by Virginia Frese Palmer ’42 will allow us to offer more scholarships as well as expand the services we offer our neighbors through our Speech and Hearing Center.
That is just some of our good news. Of course, the economic news for New York State is not good. The college receives from the state only about one-third of the funding it needs to operate, and that will no doubt be cut this year and next. This presents us with a challenge, but one that I believe we are more than capable of meeting.
Indeed, at this time we are planning to launch our next capital campaign. We are currently in the quiet phase of this campaign and things are going well. The funds raised will allow us to do what we have been doing so successfully in recent years: supplement faculty salaries so that our students are taught by the finest possible teachers; raise funds for scholarships so our high-achieving students can graduate in four years without worrying about holding down two or more jobs; maintain and expand some of our important initiatives, such as our very popular education abroad program; and much more.
It is no exaggeration to say that the future of our nation depends on well-educated men and women with the determination to excel at whatever they undertake. And these are the kinds of students we have at Queens College, men and women who very often are the children of immigrants and the first in their families to attend college. I invite you to join our community, to offer us your ideas on areas in which we might collaborate.
I wish you and your family all the best for the spring and summer.