Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) President Antonio Pérez will step down after 23 years of leadership at the college. Effective August 31, President Pérez will be leaving BMCC to serve as a CUNY Board of Trustees-appointed University Professor at Hunter College.
“President Pérez is a proven leader with great vision and a long track record of accomplishments at BMCC. The leadership he displayed in the wake of 9/11 and the attack’s impact on lower Manhattan—an unusual role for a college president—will not be forgotten. We wish him great luck in his future endeavors,” said CUNY Interim Chancellor Vita Rabinowitz.
Appointed in 1995, President Pérez led BMCC to have the highest undergraduate enrollment of any college in New York City, increasing from 16,500 students when he came on board, to more than 27,000 today. BMCC has also grown to provide almost 50 Associate degree programs in the Liberal Arts and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
Under the leadership of President Pérez, BMCC has become a premier institution of higher learning on the national level, leading the way in grant-funded STEM research, Open Educational Resources (OER), pipeline programs to ensure seamless transfers for graduates, and staff and faculty leadership development. He has also led the development of programs at BMCC that increase the participation of women and low-income students in STEM other high-demand fields. Throughout these efforts, President Pérez has demonstrated a solid commitment to the BMCC mission that values, at its core, equity and success for all students.
President Pérez is widely known for having shepherded the BMCC community through the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001. BMCC is the only college in the United States to have lost a building to a terrorist attack. Fiterman Hall was destroyed when World Trade 7 collapsed and fell against it, and the college’s main campus at 199 Chambers Street became a command center for about 2,000 rescue workers.
“That was the beginning of a new chapter in the life of our college and in my presidency,” says President Pérez. “Suddenly we were faced with new and unprecedented challenges.”
President Pérez approached those challenges with strategies and a vision that have helped define leadership in a crisis and impacted crisis management protocols for higher education institutions, nationwide. He also led efforts to create a public and private partnership that enabled BMCC’s Fiterman Hall to be razed and rebuilt. It reopened in 2012.
After the college reopened, President Pérez addressed the BMCC community. “Darkness cannot be defeated by darkness,” he told students, faculty and staff who were determined to resume their education. “It will only be overcome by light, and education is all about light.” At commencement that Spring 2002, he spoke to graduates whose achievements sent a message of hope. “We at BMCC have witnessed first-hand the destructive power of terrorism,” said the President. “Terrorism feeds on hatred, and hatred is the child of ignorance. Hatred is overcome only by understanding, by knowledge and by human compassion, all of which are the best fruits of education.”
This focus on the positive, and on student success has characterized the legacy of President Pérez. After 9/11, he was determined to let BMCC students know their college was going to remain open. To get that message out, he approached one of the news trucks lined up along the West Side Highway, and offered a reporter a better vantage point—BMCC’s rooftop.
“All I asked in return is that as long they were reporting the news, they would have subtitles scrolling across the bottom of the screen announcing, ‘BMCC will be reopening’,” he says, and it did open its doors within three weeks after the attacks, as he had predicted.
In the years that followed, the revitalization of lower Manhattan gained momentum and BMCC thrived, increasing its enrollment, degree programs, retention rates, innovative curricula and student support programs.
“As the area revitalized, BMCC stayed in step with that growth,” says President Pérez. “The resiliency of our institution reflects the types of students we attract, who are looking for a better life with the same tenacity and positive response to adversity that we hold as a college. Our faculty, staff and students show a determination that reverberates within the institution. I feel strongly that the most important thing I can leave to the college is the realization that our students can start here and they can go anywhere.”
BMCC’s Growth from 1995-2018, Under the Leadership of President Antonio Pérez
- Since the appointment of President Pérez in 1995, the student body of BMCC has grown to have the highest undergraduate enrollment of any college in New York City—from more than 16,300 in 1995 to 27,000 in Spring 2018.
- Also during that time, the number of Associate degree programs at BMCC has grown from 20 to 48.
- New majors at BMCC reflect changes in the economy and student goals. They include Accounting for Forensics, Geographic Information Science, Gerontology, Gender and Women’s Studies, Psychology, Financial Management, Animation and Motion Graphics, and Digital Marketing.
- BMCC had the third highest mobility rate among two-year colleges in the United States, according to data from “Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility,” a report by the Equality of Opportunity Project and analyzed by The Chronicle of Higher Education in 2017. The report shows that 41 percent of BMCC students moved up two or more out of five income quintiles, or categories used to assess household income.
- Based on data from the U.S. Department of Education, BMCC ranks #5 among associate-degree producing institutions nationwide for awarding degrees to All Minority Students, #3 for African American students and #11 for both Hispanic and Asian American students.
- BMCC has established research opportunities for underrepresented minorities and women that level the playing field with their peers when they graduate and transfer to four-year schools. These include the BMCC Foundation Fund for Undergraduate Research, the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), the CUNY Research Scholars Program, the Louis Stokes Minority Participation (LSAMP), the Minority Science Engineering Improvement Program: Retention and Improvements in STEM Education (MSIEP-RISE) grant.
- BMCC has established dynamic high school linkages through programs such as the Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP for High School Students) and the Manhattan Early College School for Advertising (MECA).
- BMCC is the first CUNY institution to join a partnership with the DOE to create a pathway for graduates of more than 50 Career and Technical Education high schools to enter BMCC’s Associate in Applied Science degree program in Computer Network Technology or Business Management.
- President Pérez is widely known for having shepherded the college community through the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Fiterman Hall was destroyed when World Trade Seven fell against it, and through the efforts of President Pérez, the college reopened in just three weeks. Pérez was key in creating a private and public partnership that enabled Fiterman Hall to be razed and reopened in 2012.
- BMCC is the only CUNY college to provide a Year Up program on campus, serving about 400 students thus far who receive coaching, mentoring and real-life work experience in major corporations and companies throughout lower Manhattan.
- President Pérez created Out in Two, a scholarship program that encourages students to graduate within two years and serves hundreds of students a year.
- BMCC’s sustainability efforts are a model for colleges throughout the country, and it has the largest public solar panel roof in Manhattan.
- BMCC successfully serves the largest veteran student population in CUNY.
- Under President Perez’s leadership, BMCC has made available to students, scholarship programs that include the following: MoneyWorks, BMCC Foundation, Out in Two, Pipeline Opportunities for Inter-Collegiate Stem Education Program (POISE), Gallatin Undergraduate Initiative for Discovery in Education (GUIDE) and TheDream.US.
- Through the BMCC Single Stop office, the college provides support around issues that impact students’ ability to remain in college. Most recently, the Single Stop office has provided the Panther Pantry, a resource for students experiencing food insecurity.
- BMCC is the first CUNY college to adopt a Co-curricula transcript, enabling students to document their participation in the numerous volunteer programs available at BMCC, including those provided by the BMCC Academy of Leadership and Service and others.
- Pérez facilitated BMCC's role in the creation of the NYSIM (CUNY/NYU Langone Medical Center), which serves as a training site for BMCC Allied Health students, NYU medical students as well as for CUNY students across New York City.
“As president, I always believed that in setbacks, one must find motivation.
I also believe in never compromising the future for an easier present.”
Embedded photos, top to bottom:
BMCC President Antonio Pérez and presidential candidate Barack Obama, 2007
BMCC President Antonio Pérez, center, walking to Fiterman Hall groundbreaking ceremony, 2009
BMCC President Antonio Pérez, center, at New York Stock Exchange, 2013
BMCC President Antonio Pérez with CBS reporter Lou Young on BMCC rooftop after 9/11, 2001