The City University of New York recently tapped Puerto Rican scholar and civil servant Felix Matos Rodriguez to head Hostos Community College. As president, Matos Rodriguez will cater to 5,100 students in the south Bronx.
In 2005 and 2006, Matos Rodriguez managed Puerto Rico’s social service system as secretary for the Department of the Family. He will leave Borinquen for Hostos on July 1; last week, Matos Rodriguez granted The Bronx Times a long-distance interview. He’s excited to begin work in the Boogie Down.
“As a child, I heard stories about the Bronx,” Matos Rodriguez said. “Hostos is an economic and cultural anchor – created for, fought for and kept nourished by the people of the Bronx.”
Matos Rodriguez was born and raised in Puerto Rico. A Yale University graduate, he earned a PhD in history from Columbia University. Matos Rodriguez has taught at Yale, Boston College and San Juan’s Universidad Interamerica. He has spent time at CUNY before; from 2000 to 2005, Matos Rodriguez served as director of the Hunter College center for Puerto Rican Studies.
“I was raised to be proud of my heritage, to appreciate education and to give back,” Matos Rodriguez said.
As secretary for the Department of the Family in Puerto Rico, Matos Rodriguez was responsible for the island’s “safety net” – for Puerto Ricans in need. He supervised 9,500 employees and a $2.2 billion budget. Hostos, named after the Puerto Rican patriot Eugenio María de Hostos, was established in 1968. CUNY conducted a nationwide search to replace Dolores Fernandez, who announced her retirement last summer.
Matos Rodriguez called the position a good fit. He has worked with Pregones Theater, the Bronx Museum and the Bronx Council for the Arts. He is a board member of Aspira Inc., Phipps Community Development Corporation and El Diario.
“Dr. Matos Rodriguez bring to this critical leadership position a truly exceptional combination of scholarship and administrative skills, along with tremendous energy,” CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein said.
Matos Rodriguez will focus on student life, academic offerings and community involvement, he said. He thinks Hostos will help improve life in the south Bronx. Graduation and retention rates will constitute a major challenge, Matos Rodriguez said.
Soon, Hostos will boast a formidable rival in the south Bronx. Boricua College, a private school designed for Nuyoricans, is set to open a brand new, 4.5-acre south Bronx campus soon.
Matos Rodriguez and his wife Liliana, whose sons Lucas, 7, and Juan Carlos, 5, were born in the Bronx, will live here. Matos Rodriguez hopes to stay at Hostos for a long time.