Willimantic, Conn. - The Connecticut Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission (LPRAC) honored Eastern Connecticut State University President Elsa M. Núñez with its Lifetime Achievement Award on Oct. 22 during its 14th Annual Scholarship Awards Ceremony at Amarante's Sea Cliff Restaurant in New Haven.
Núñez also delivered the keynote address at the banquet. She recalled the days when Latinos worked long hours in difficult conditions in the tobacco fields, thread mills and other factories of Connecticut. The pay was low, the conditions were often dangerous, and families were not treated well. "We have moved away from the tobacco farms and the thread mills, but life is not better for many members of the Latino community." President Núñez went on to describe the educational achievement gap in Connecticut that exists between Latino students, often living in urban, low-income households and more affluent, white suburban students. "The achievement gap in Connecticut is the worst in the country," she explained, "and Latino students' academic performance actually gets worse as they progress through school. Our educational system is failing them."
Prior to joining Eastern in 2006, Núñez served as vice chancellor of academic and student affairs in the University of Maine System from 2003 to 2006. Before her appointment in Maine, Núñez serves as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Lesley University. From 1993 to 1997, she was university dean for academic affairs and vice chancellor for student affairs at the City University of New York. She also served as associate dean of faculty at the College of Staten Island from 1986 to 1992.
Núñez also has held positions as a tenured faculty member at Ramapo State College; the College of Staten Island of the City University of New York, and Lehman College of the City University of New York. She is the author of "Pursuing Diversity" (1992) and has published numerous articles in the areas of language acquisition, diversity, academic attainment in higher education, cultural differences in education and retention.
Several members of the Eastern family were on hand to congratulate President Nunez. Some of them, above, left to right, included Imna Arroyo, Carmen Cid, Sophia Cortez-Gomez, Adrianna Sanchez, Pat Banach and Carlos Hernandez.
In addition to serving on the American Council on Education's Council of Fellows and the Association of American Colleges and Universities' Presidents Trust, Núñez also serves on the boards of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation; Girl Scouts of Connecticut; Hartford Healthcare; and Leadership Greater Hartford.
Carlos Hernandez, left, from Eastern's Facilities and Management Planning Department, and Dwight Bachman ,right, Eastern's public relations officer, congratulate President Nunez on her honor
Núñez earned her B.A. from Montclair State College, an M.A. from Fairleigh Dickinson University and a doctorate in linguistics from Rutgers University.
Eastern student Noel Bautista and Caithlyn Sanchez of Windham High School were among the 15 students who received scholarships. Over the 14 years of its scholarship program, the LPRAC has awarded more than $117,000 in scholarships to Connecticut students.
Other awardees included Army National Guard Major Lesbia Nieves, president of the Association of Hispanic Veterans of Connecticut and Ruth Vázquez of ASPIRA/United Way of New Britain, who were named Latina Citizens of the Year; the late educator and community activist Antonia Pantoja, who received a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award; Luis Caban, executive director of the Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance, and Angel Ruiz of Latino Community Services in Hartford, who received Latino Citizens of the Year awards; and the Spanish Speaking Center of New Britain, which received the community agency award.
The Guakia youth musical troupe of Hartford provided entertainment by playing Puerto Rican folk music, under the direction of Ray Gonzalez.