CUNY Begins Year Long Celebration to Mark 175th Anniversary

By Niko Balkaran

The City University of New York celebrated its 175th anniversary on May 7. To mark the milestone, CUNY has planned a year-long celebration. The festivities began with the Empire State Building displaying the university’s colors, blue and gold. 

“Since the launch of our mission in 1847, CUNY has continuously represented opportunity for New Yorkers of all backgrounds, providing an affordable, high-quality and life-changing education for 175 years,” said Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez in an article on the CUNY website. 

Rodríguez is the first chancellor of color in the university’s lengthy history.

CUNY began as the Free Academy on May 7, 1847, after receiving a charter from the New York State Legislature. Eventually, the Free Academy was renamed the City College of New York. 

“The City University of New York has offered New Yorkers exceptional education for 175 years and paved the way for institutions across the nation as the first free public institution of higher education in the country,” said Mayor Eric Adams. “As a CUNY graduate, I’m proud to be part of a long list of alumni who continued to become agents of change.” 

The university has created an anniversary webpage that includes a timeline since the founding of the university and profiles of distinguished students and faculty.

Some notable alumni of York College include Sal F. Albanese, a Democratic candidate for New York City mayor in 2012 and 2017, Maryanne J. George, an American Christian musician, Deborah Persaud, a virologist and professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Gerald A. Reynolds, chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 2004 to 2010.

Some notable York faculty include James Como, an author of three books on C.S. Lewis and founder of the New York C.S. Lewis Society, Ron Daniels, a former presidential candidate and the late Margaret Vendryes, an art historian, visual artist and sculptor. 

CUNY has awarded over 1.7 million degrees over the past 50 years and has produced 13 Nobel Laureates and 26 MacArthur “Genius” Grants across 25 colleges, according to the anniversary webpage. 

“The quality, affordable education offered by CUNY has been the great equalizer for generations of New Yorkers,” said Governor Kathy Hochul. “For the last 175 years, CUNY has shaped our city and left an enduring legacy of opportunity for New Yorkers from all walks of life.”

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