Lehman at 50: Advancing Scholarship, Opportunity and Community

Photo of Lehman College President, Jose Luis CruzMessage from President José Luis Cruz

April 9, 2018 - This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Herbert H. Lehman College of The City University of New York. I feel very fortunate to serve as president at this time, as this remarkable milestone gives me even more reason to express my pride in this most noble institution, both for its role as an enduring anchor institution in the Bronx and as an engine of opportunity for tens of thousands of students.

The story of how Lehman came to exist, and how it has evolved over the last half-century, is most compelling. Lehman’s story is the story of the rebellious faculty of Hunter in the Bronx, who gained their independence from Hunter on Park Avenue, and went on to transform what was then a 37-year-old branch campus — with its own illustrious history— into what today is one of our country’s premier public urban-serving institutions. An institution which has in turn transformed the lives of over 75,000 alumni and impacted hundreds of thousands of others through its educational, cultural, and community outreach programs and events. An institution which today is privileged to educate more than 13,000 talented students who embody the aspirations of over 140 different ancestries, and who exhibit the drive of those who strive to make their life here, in the world’s greatest City, the City of New York.

Lehman’s story is the story of a liberal arts college that upon its founding hoped to "enrich the human spirit and offer to as many as [could] realize their potential, the opportunity to be so enriched." A college that today — notwithstanding the growth of its professional programs — remains fiercely committed to extending the benefits of a liberal education to all of its students, regardless of the course of study they choose to pursue.

Lehman’s story is the story of a community — of teachers, scholars, and learners — who over time rejected an insular identity, and instead embraced the role it was (in hindsight) always destined to play — the role of a quintessential anchor institution in the Bronx. An anchor institution that recognizes that its past, present, and future— and that of the borough it calls home — are inextricably intertwined. A recognition that represents a cause for optimism and a source of confidence; and a call for thoughtful, intentional action.

Inspired by the life of service of our illustrious namesake and drawing strength from a faculty deeply committed to intellectual rigor, student achievement, and the tenets of social justice, we celebrate the past and continue to build an even more purposeful momentum—in our mission, our range of accomplishments, and in our drive to meet our full potential as drivers of transformative change. Even as we celebrate our past achievements, we are already dreaming of the new heights we can reach tomorrow.

A recent study placed Lehman College #4 in the top ten colleges nationwide with the highest “mobility rate,” a statistic that matches a college’s share of students from lower-income families with its success at “propelling” graduates upwards into the country’s top 40 percent of wage earners.

That Lehman continues to prevail here, at a crossroads of income levels, languages spoken and human ambitions, is a cause for celebration and a stronger embrace of its place in history. It also serves an imperative for a greater, more comprehensive effort in directing Lehman’s educational and cultural resources toward making an even deeper and more impactful difference in the lives of residents here in the borough and beyond.

This is why we have introduced 90x30—our challenge to double to 90,000 the number of additional high-quality degrees and credentials that Lehman students are expected to earn by 2030. If we reach this goal, we will become the top contributor to educational attainment in the Bronx. In doing so, we will significantly increase the impact we have on the lives of our students, their families and the borough we call home.

I am confident that in the years ahead we will not only further establish Lehman as a driver of transformative change in the borough we call home, but also inspire others to better support the millions of talented students beyond our borough who are coming of age in America today, but who—because of the color of their skin, the balance of their checking account, their place of origin, who they choose to love, or the tenets of their faith—have not yet been afforded the opportunities to meet their full potential.