Annual Lehman College lecture features Fat Joe, former BP Rubén Díaz, Jr.

Lehman College Memorial Lecture with Fat Joe
Lehman College hosts its annual Lehman Memorial Lecture, featuring Fat Joe and former Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr., at the college on Tuesday, March 26, 2024.
Photo Paul Frangipane

Two Bronx moguls who have been instrumental in providing for and giving back to their community over the years came together to take center stage at a local college campus.

On Tuesday, March 26, former Borough President Rubén Díaz, Jr. joined Fat Joe, a rapper, philanthropist and entrepreneur, to headline the 54th Annual Herbert H. Lehman Memorial Lecture at Lehman College, located at 250 Bedford Park West in the Bedford Park neighborhood of the Bronx.

The lecture gave Lehman College students the opportunity to see two of the borough’s biggest names who became successful but never forgot about the community and borough from which they came.

Throughout the lecture, both Díaz, Jr. and Fat Joe explained that Bronx students and youth must identify their dreams and then take the appropriate steps toward making those dreams a reality while never losing belief in oneself and always remembering where they came from.

Fernando Delgado, president of Lehman College, provided introduction remarks to kick off the event.

“This illustrious tradition of the Herbert H. Lehman Memorial Lecture celebrates the people who dedicate their life and career to public service and social justice,” Delgado said. “Rubén Díaz, Jr. and Fat Joe have always strived to create positive change within the community echoing (Lehman) College’s dedication to fostering a community-driven and engaged environment for our students.”

Díaz, Jr., a Lehman alumnus and also a member of the Herbert H. Lehman College Foundation Board of Directors, began the lecture by urging the Lehman students in attendance to find ways to “seek their passion” and “maximize on their talents.”

Former Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz, Jr. speaks during the Lehman Memorial Lecture at Lehman College on Tuesday, March 26, 2024.Photo Paul Frangipane

“I’m so honored and thrilled to be here, speaking in front of you all at today’s lecture and I hope I can provide some insight, advice and encouragement as you begin to shape your futures,” said Díaz, Jr., who served as Bronx borough president for 12 years, from 2009 to 2021, during which he led a resurgence in the Bronx in many areas including economic development, job creation, health and housing.

“I don’t want to lecture everybody for 45 minutes because we’ve got another guest speaker here,” Díaz, Jr. added, with a smile. “I’ll just say that no matter what opportunities are presented to you, the students, in the future and no matter how successful you become, it’s even more special to give back to the community where you came from and began your journey.”

Díaz Jr., who currently works as the senior vice president of Strategic Initiatives at Montefiore Einstein, then took the opportunity to welcome the hip-hop legend, philanthropist and entrepreneur, the Boogie Down’s own, Fat Joe.

“I don’t know if people really, truly understand it when I say that my family was poor — I mean, we were dirt poor, even with my mom working three jobs at the same time,” said Fat Joe, whose real name is Joseph Cartagena. “But, even though we were poor, we always had love.”

Lehman College hosts its annual Lehman Memorial Lecture, featuring Fat Joe and former Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr., at the college on Tuesday, March 26, 2024.Photo Paul Frangipane

Fat Joe, a Grammy-nominated recording artist, began his rap career in the early 1990s before forming the group the Terror Squad with the late Big Pun and other Bronx artists.

Toward the end of the lecture, Fat Joe added that his first paid show as a performer took place at Lehman College decades ago.

In total, Fat Joe has released 10 solo albums and five collaborative albums with other artists and also released “The Book of Jose: A Memoir” which chronicles his life beginning in the Forest Houses projects within the South Bronx in the 1970s.

Aside from music, Fat Joe has also been involved in various philanthropic efforts as well community initiatives in the Bronx,  as well as providing food and other essential items to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, and also intends to provide assistance to improve the current crisis in Haiti.

In the past, Fat Joe has organized giveaways for Thanksgiving turkeys, Jordan sneakers and other items for Bronx residents and students who are underprivileged and live in underserved communities.

Along with Díaz, Jr., Fat Joe also donated 20 desktop computers to his alma mater, P.S. 146 Edward Collins, back in 2017.

“Our students need to proper tools and resources to be able to compete for their futures,” Fat Joe said. “The reason I’m all about philanthropy is because I came from a family of giving — even when we were poor ourselves and didn’t have much to offer.”

Díaz, Jr. and Fat Joe, whose friendship stems more than 25 years, co-named this year’s lecture, “Hip Hop With A Heart / The Civic Mind Of The Bronx.”

Lehman College hosts its annual Lehman Memorial Lecture, featuring Fat Joe and former Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr., at the college on Tuesday, March 26, 2024.Photo Paul Frangipane

The lecture was followed by a Q&A segment where Lehman College students and others in attendance were given the opportunity to ask questions and further inquire about Díaz, Jr. and Fat Joe’s life paths to success as well as their previous experiences of growing up in the Bronx.

Musical entertainment for the event was also provided by DJ Sam.

In recent years, the annual Lehman College lecture has included appearances by former Borough President Fernando Ferrer, New York State Attorney General Letitia James and former state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, among others.

In 1994, the lecture featured Democratic U.S. Sen. of Tennessee Albert Gore, Sr. — the late father of Al Gore — who served as the country’s 45th vice president under Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2001.

Lehman College, whose 37-acre campus supports more than 13,000 undergraduate and graduate students, is named after the late New York Governor and U.S. Sen. Hebert H. Lehman, who died in 1963.

Reach Steven Goodstein at or (718) 260–8326. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes