Lehman Today Online Magazine Lehman Today Spring 2016 - Page 16

MAKING OF A PRESIDENT MAKING OF A PRESIDENT local communities; to create “a college-going culture” in the Bronx, which was lagging behind the city in both economic and educational performances. Sharing a light moment with Lehman College President Emeritus Leonard Lief in the early 1990s. time, they would prove to be prescient. During those same years, CUNY came under fire from New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Former Yale President Benno Schmidt was asked to chair a task force that reviewed the entire Universitywide system. The result was a 1999 reported titled “CUNY: An Institution Adrift.” The Schmidt report, as it became known, urged senior colleges to eliminate all remedial courses, making them the focus of the system’s community colleges—a significant policy shift. Since Lehman College, under President Fernández’s leadership, had instituted those changes years before, he was asked to testify before the New York State Board of Regents. “I was convinced that the community colleges were better at providing remedial education to students than the faculty of a senior college,” he said. Critics complained that Black and Latino student enrollment figures would plummet; they didn’t. In fact, over time they grew, particularly at the community colleges. The Evolution of Higher Education— and Lehman College In 1999, with a new Chancellor, former Baruch College President Matthew Goldstein, at the helm, the University sought to get its house in order. From the beginning of his time at Lehman, President Fernández wanted to leverage the College’s academic standing and its connection to the local community and marshal the College’s intellectual resources to improve the lives of the Even during the difficult years of his first decade, Lehman College had committed itself to a beautification process to improve its campus facilities. In 1994, The APEX, designed by Uruguayanborn architect Rafael Viñoly, opened with an Olympic-sized swimming pool, outdoor tennis courts, an indoor track, plus basketball, racquetball, and handball courts. President Fernández also updated the College’s technological capacities—computers were a rare site on campus when he arrived in 1990. In 1999, the College’s $13.5 million Information Technology Center opened in the center floor of Carman Hall, the College’s main classroom building. In his address at his formal installation as president in October 1991, President Fernández had noted that the central challenge facing both Lehman College and the City University of New York was “to educate the next generation of America’s urban students, and to do it as if our city’s and our nation’s welfare depends on it, because it really does.” Under President Fernández’s leadership Lehman College has fostered relationships with an array of Bronx public schools in an effort to create a fairer, more equitable public school system in the borough. The goal was to establish collaborative efforts with the NYC Department of Education to turn out better-prepared students from the borough’s K-12 system. With the dawn of a new century, Lehman College made national headlines when two of its finest, and longest serving faculty members, won accolades that made them household names in their respective fields. Composer John Corigliano, a Distinguished Professor