Written by Ed Osborn
Willimantic, Conn: -- On Monday, Sept. 17, Sila María Calderón, former Governor of Puerto Rico, will visit the Eastern Connecticut State University campus in Willimantic for a series of appearances.
From 2-2:50 p.m
. in the Student Center Theater, Calderón will be giving a keynote address on building community partnerships. At 3:15 p.m., also in the Student Center Theater, Calderón will host a press conference for local news media. The two events are free of charge and the public is invited to both of them.
In 2001, Calderón became the first woman to serve as governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. She began her career in public service in 1973 as special assistant to the secretary of labor, and later worked for Governor Hernández Colón as special assistant on economic development and labor issues. In 1985, Governor Hernández appointed Calderón as the first woman chief of staff for the Commonwealth, and two years later, appointed her as Puerto Rico's secretary of state. She was elected mayor of San Juan in 1996, and expanded her involvement with the underprivileged communities to include 53 other sectors in dire social and economic need.
In November 2000, Calderón was elected the seventh governor of Puerto Rico after a campaign based on fiscal responsibility, economic development, special attention to underprivileged citizens and responsible government. Calderón made job creation the priority of her administration.
As governor from 2001-05, she put in place programs in economic development, drug control, child abuse, public education and tourism. One of Calderón's most notable initiatives was the Special Communities Program, through which more than a million citizens living in 686 barrios were provided with the tools and opportunities to break the cycle of poverty. The program organizes the communities, empowers its residents, and has invested more than $1 billion of local funds in housing and infrastructure.
Calderón has also been president of Commonwealth Investment Company and manager for business development for Citibank, N.A. She has served on the board of directors of such private institutions as Banco Popular de Puerto Rico, Pueblo International and the Puerto Rico Economic Development Council. She also spearheaded a joint public and private initiative to rehabilitate the poverty-stricken community of the Cantera Peninsula in San Juan.
The governor has firmly defended Puerto Rico's present political and economic relationship with the United States that allows for common defense, fiscal autonomy and cultural identity for the Commonwealth.
Calderón graduated with honors in 1964 from Manhattanville College, where she earned a bachelor's degree in political science. She earned her master's degree in public administration from the University of Puerto Rico, and has received several honorary doctorate degrees.
The governor also has been active in the field of philanthropy. The Sila Calderón Fellowship at Rutgers University in New Jersey is offered to graduate and doctoral-level students in the Master's in Public Administration Program at Rutger's Camden campus. The fellowships allow scholars to engage in applied research in the areas of ethics, social justice and community building, and are part of the Sila Calerón Endowed Fund, which Gov. Calderón established at Rutgers to support scholars working in Puerto Rico and in Puerto Rican communities in the United States.