Junius Gonzales, M.D., M.B.A., New York Institute of Technology’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, received the Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (LIHCC) Academic Excellence Award at the organization’s 30th annual gala on November 17. He joined Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and other exceptional role models, corporate, and community leaders recognized by the LIHCC for their dedication to the Hispanic community, supporting local businesses, and elevating local economies.
“We at NYIT are extremely proud of Dr. Gonzales’s recognition,” said NYIT President Hank Foley, Ph.D., who was among the gala attendees. “We see the excellence and dedication he has to our students’ success every day, and we are appreciative of the LIHCC for showcasing it in the larger community.”
Upon accepting his award from LIHCC President Luis Vazquez, Gonzales spoke eloquently about growing up as the son of poor immigrant parents from Peru and experiencing firsthand struggles many people now, even in our region, today face. He lauded the power of education and its impact on intergenerational mobility. “I experienced the power of education,” Gonzales noted. “It goes without saying that without education, specifically a college degree to start, I wouldn’t be standing here this evening for such recognition for academic excellence.”
Gonzales also explained what led him to join NYIT in July 2018, after serving as senior vice president of Academic Affairs and interim president at the 17-campus University of North Carolina System and as provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Texas at El Paso, where he implemented nationally recognized student success initiatives.
“I came to NYIT primarily because of the student body—diverse, with many first-generation college students…It’s a very special place, where 50 percent of undergraduate students qualify for federal Pell grants. A place of access and opportunity to succeed, it is ranked seventh in the nation for enhancing social mobility,” Gonzales told the audience. “I get to visit and talk with local high schools—take Glen Cove, for example. The student body is nearly 55 percent Hispanic, and I want to make sure all of them have access to opportunity. And despite many obstacles, our students, especially with their families’ support, can and do rise to the challenge of excellence and succeed.”
Gonzales ended his acceptance speech with a quote in Spanish by Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire, which he translated: “Education doesn't change the world, it changes the people who are going to change the world.”