By Bill Parry
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown named Queens College president Félix Matos Rodríguez as the recipient of the District Attorney’s 2018 Hispanic Heritage Award for his tireless commitment to advancing Latin American culture as both an educator and a public servant in Puerto Rico, where he served as a vital member of the country’s government.
The award was presented to Matos Rodríguez last Friday during a reception in Brown’s Kew Gardens office as part of National Hispanic Heritage Month, an annual celebration of the rich culture and heritage of the Hispanic and Latino communities.
“Dr. Matos Rodríguez currently serves as the 10th president of Queens College and former president of Hostos Community College,” Brown said. “These accomplishments have given him the rare distinction of being one of a select group of educators in the nation to have served as both the head of a baccalaureate and community college institution.”
“Not only is President Matos Rodríguez heralded for his work in academia — most recently for his work to improve Hostos College’s academic and financial reputations — but he is also lauded for his work to advance the influence the lives of Hispanic Americans through his extensive public service initiatives,” Brown added.
Matos Rodríguez earned his graduate degree in Latin American Studies from Yale University and a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University and has not let his drive to better himself impede his goal of enriching the lives of those who matter most: his students.
Through his work in the classroom and from gracing the halls of some prestigious colleges and universities — such as Hunter College, Northeastern University, Boston University, the Universidad Interamericana — Recinto Metro, City College, and lastly his alma mater Yale University — the Puerto Rican-born educator has impressed upon college students the importance of exploring their own diverse heritages in greater detail.
The San Juan native’s commitment to excellence extends far beyond the four walls of the classroom and into the field of research, where he served as the Program Officer for the Social Science Research Council and the Director for the Center of Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College and he is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Matos Rodríguez’s expertise in academia, policy and foreign affairs are renowned and sought after not just in Queens but worldwide, according to Brown.
“Our Latino population here in Queens represents 28 percent of our 2.3 million residents,” Brown said. “It is a population of great cultural significance to the fabric of our society, but more importantly to the various communities they call home within our borough.”
National Hispanic Heritage Month started off as a week-long celebration in 1968 and the observance was expanded to a month-long celebration in 1988.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr