Queens College President Felix Matos Rodriguez was honored at the Champions for Change and Leadership Awards on Sept. 29 at 6:30 p.m. in the President’s Lounge.
The Queens Tribune, a local Queens newspaper, hosted the Hispanic Heritage awards reception. The event was created for Hispanic Heritage month and to show how these Hispanic community leaders are making great changes in society.
Other honorees included the Speaker of the New York City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito; President of the Queens Chamber of Commerce and Director of Astoria Bank, Mayra DiRico; Attorney at Ahmuty, Demers and McManus and former president of the Queens County Women’s Bar Association, Lourdes Ventura; and Thalia Spanish Theater and the Latin American Cultural Center.
The master of ceremonies was the Queens Tribune Publisher, Michael Nussbaum. He said that the Queens Tribune decided to create the event because Queens is one of the most diverse places in the world and this specific culture needs recognition for its accomplishments.
“We need to recognize the vastest and largest growing community in Queens County, and that is the Latino community. That is the community that people see, people hear and people taste,” Nussbaum said.
“But they have to become part of the other fabric, which is telling that story beyond their communities. [Hispanic] elected officials, there are a lot more now than years ago when I was in government. The community is strong not only in New York, but across the United States.”
Nussbaum then brought Queens Borough President, Melinda Katz, to the podium. After she introduced herself in Spanish, she thanked Rodriguez and Queens College for hosting the event and then said a few words about the QC President.
“You’ve really done an amazing job here at this institution. Thank you for your leadership and your guidance,” Katz said.
Rodriguez came to Queens College in August of 2014 as the tenth president of the college. Not only has he contributed to the Queens community and Queens College community, but he has also contributed to the Hispanic community. He was a cabinet secretary of the Department of Family Services for Commonwealth in Puerto Rico and currently serves on the board of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.
“He is a president that doesn’t stay in his office. He roams the college campus, he interacts with students. He unloads their cars when they come in the beginning of the semester, I’ve seen the pictures on Facebook. He is someone that is engaged in this college almost 24/7,” Nussbaum said.
After receiving his award, Matos Rodriguez posed for pictures with Katz and Nussbaum and then thanked everyone for the award and recognition.
“Because the college and because the borough is such a phenomenally diverse space, I have seldom talked about the fact that I am the first Latino to ever be president of Queens College,” Rodriguez said. “I am delighted to be honored with some old friends and new friends that we are making now. The Speaker is a longtime friend; her mother used to work with me with the government in Puerto Rico.”
The final speaker was New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. She thanked the Queens Tribune for this recognition and she thanked the press and local community papers for the role they play in the borough.
Mark-Viverito specifically congratulated her long-time friend Rodriguez. She continued by mentioning that her identity as a Puerto Rican woman means everything to her and that she is proud to give the Hispanic community a voice.
Other attendees of the awards reception included Councilmember Barry Grodenchik, Assemblymember David Weprin and Councilmember Daniel Dromm. Dromm represents district 25, which includes Jackson Heights. When he was asked to say a few words, he gave part of his speech in fluent Spanish. He mentioned how he wanted to be at the awards ceremony to support the large Hispanic population he represents in his district.
“We’re honoring folks that make sure Hispanic heritage is given justice every single year. Folks that have committed their lives to this borough and committed their lives to the future of New York City,” Katz said. “Some of them have come from other countries and put their faith right where we are sitting here and sacrificed and saved to make sure that whatever future and culture and parent’s parent’s traditions that they have were taught right here in the borough of Queens, and that’s amazing and that’s what our borough is about.”