I was fortunate to work at the City College of New York for 10 years and enjoyed every day of my job. Designed by George B. Post, the campus still sparkles today. I grew to know many of its talented students, its accomplished alumni, and its gifted faculty. One of those faculty members was Dr. Vince Boudreau, who not only produced a large scholarly oeuvre of books and articles on Southeast Asia, but was widely known as a dedicated teacher as well.
Together with CCNY’s most famous alumnus, General Colin L. Powell, Vince helped nurture and develop the Colin L. Powell Center for Leadership and Public Service into what became the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership. He served first as Center director, then School dean and now finally, as City’s president. Those of us who know him were rooting for him all the way.
Underneath the Edwin Blashfield mural in the Great Hall, General Powell spoke movingly of his early days at CCNY and how they prepared him for his eminent career as a four-star general in the army, then as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and later as Secretary of State. His education was entirely free, from elementary school through City College and no one could be a more eloquent spokesman for public education than he. I have seen him in the hallways grabbing unsuspecting students and surprising and delighting them with his questions. He is as amazed by their gifts and determination as they are at getting the chance to talk with him.
After President Boudreau received his president’s medal from the hands of CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken, and Vice Chair Barry Schwartz of the CUNY Board of Trustees, he gave his first address as president of CCNY.
He described the magnificent Great Hall, reminding his listeners that it had been created deliberately as a cathedral of learning for the ordinary citizen, not the privileged.
He personally committed himself and the institution to the ideals of public education, to serving all students, including the disadvantaged. He spoke of CCNY as the continuing engine of social mobility it has always been. In Vince’s own words,
“We defy the idea that where you come from or how you got here or where you pray or what you look like, or who you love, has any bearing on your place in our society. We reject the idea that the circumstances of your birth define the pathways of your life. We work in the understanding that we do not now live in the world we were meant to inhabit–we build it every day, and defend what we build when we must. And on this campus, I promise you, we will make that defense.”
When establishing the Free Academy of New York, which became CCNY, Townsend Harris said:
“Open the doors to all… Let the children of the rich and the poor take their seats together and know of no distinction save that of industry, good conduct and intellect.”
I believe that Vince will help fulfill Harris’ vision and make a remarkable president of this beloved institution. I feel privileged to have worked with him and all the great teachers, scholars, alumni and students of CCNY.