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February 23, 2019

Felix Matos Rodriguez to be next CUNY chancellor, first Hispanic to hold the seat

February 13, 2019
Felix Matos Rodriguez (Howard Simmons / New York Daily News)

After a search that dragged on for more than a year, CUNY finally got its man.

Queens College president Felix Matos Rodriguez will be the next chancellor of the university system, the largest in the country.

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Matos Rodriguez’s appointment makes him the eighth chancellor in the City University of New York’s history — and the first Hispanic to hold the seat.

He will assume his new post on May 1, taking over for interim chancellor and university provost Vita Rabinowitz.

The home-grown educator rose through the university system’s ranks over the past two decades.

Before taking the reigns at Queens college, he was a professor and director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College from and president of Eugenio María de Hostos Community College.

“This would be an extraordinary opportunity for anyone who is passionate about the role CUNY plays in the lifeblood of the world’s greatest and most important city,” said Matos Rodríguez. “For me, this appointment is particularly special because CUNY is home.”

CUNY’s search for a new chancellor began in November 2017, when James Milliken announced he was stepping down, eight months after he was diagnosed with throat cancer.

Rabinowitz was named acting chancellor after Milliken departed last June.

“Over the course of our thorough search for a chancellor, we came to consider several serious candidates among a stellar field of accomplished leaders, but we kept coming back to Felo,” said CUNY Board of Trustees chair William Thompson Jr., who led the search. “His sterling credentials, his unparalleled depth of perspective and his demonstrated commitment to CUNY made him the inarguable standout and the obvious choice.”

Matos Rodriguez, 56, holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a doctorate in history from Columbia University.

He returned to his native Puerto Rico in 2005, and was named secretary of the island’s Department of Family Services in 2006. He came back to New York in 2009, and oversaw a double-digit increase in Hostos Community College’s retention rate through 2014.

“[Matos Rodriguez] is obviously a phenomenal role model for young people and the students of CUNY,” said Antonio Flores, president of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, of which Matos Rodriguez is chair. “Both Latnio and non-Latino students should be very proud of his appointment.”

Since he took over at Queens College, the school has received accolades for its improvements in diversity and economic social mobility among its students.

“I think he’s a great choice,” said Kathy Wylde, CEO of Partnership for New York City. “I think there was some hesitance to go with someone inside the system after doing a worldwide search, but it’s better off having someone who has a granular understanding of the city and university.”

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