04/23/2013 10:51 am ET Updated Jun 23, 2013

Celebrating 45 Years of Hostos Community College

On this day in 1968, some 45 years ago, Eugenio María de Hostos Community College was officially born in the South Bronx. Two years later, the first group of 623 students began their college journey. Probably no one imagined at the time that this small school would eventually see its enrollment grow to nearly 18,000, or that it would have such a transformative impact on the lives of thousands of people in the South Bronx and surrounding communities.

What began as an institution that enrolled primarily Puerto Rican and Latino students now educates students from throughout New York City as well as 101 countries. What began with a handful of academic programs and teachers now offers 29 programs and has nearly 175 full-time faculty members. What began in abandoned buildings and cramped trailers now has a campus that includes two concert halls and theaters, dozens of smart classrooms, an art gallery, sports facilities, science labs, and dental and X-ray clinics.

I know that those who fought in those early years and throughout the following two decades, when the college seemed to be in constant jeopardy, were visionary and dreamed big. What I do not know is whether they envisioned that the school would one day be the alma mater of the mother of the first Latina justice on the Supreme Court of the United States, as well as thousands of professionals, including community leaders, university presidents, professors and elected officials, among others. I do not know if they imagined programs of academic excellence such as our radiology program, which for 17 consecutive years has certified all of its graduates.

I do not know if they imagined that Hostos would send African-American and Latino students to summer programs at NASA, or that the New York State Professor of the Year would be Rees Shad, a member of our digital design faculty. I don't know if they imagined that the Hostos men's basketball team would win the NJCAA Division III championship in 2005, becoming the first community college in New York City to capture a national title. And I also do not know if they imagined that the Hostos Repertory Company would one summer be the only theatrical troupe from a community college invited to participate in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the world's most prestigious international theater festival.

Forty-five years later, Hostos is moving in the right direction. Our retention and graduation rates have increased during the past four years. Our enrollment doubled over the last decade. We are embarking on an expansion of our campus with the construction of a new building dedicated to Allied Health and Natural Sciences, as well as a new and innovative high school in partnership with Montefiore Hospital. We are also working closer than ever with businesses in the region to help them with job training, and the achievements of our students and our faculty are increasingly being recognized throughout the city, state, and nation.

This is the perfect time to thank all the people who have supported Hostos during the past 45 years. It is with great pride that we acknowledge the generation who made it possible for the school to open its doors and ensured the first two decades of its existence. Thanks to the community, educational, philanthropic and political leaders who have always stood by our side. I hope they are as proud of what we have accomplished, and as committed as I am to continue working for an even more exceptional and distinguished College.

Providing the best education to our students and serving as an anchor institution in the transformation and progress of the Bronx are Hostos' foundational goals. As our 50th anniversary approaches, we reaffirm our commitment to our mission, and we pledge, with even more dedication and effort, to achieve it.