José F. Méndez
Dr. José F. Méndez was born in 1937, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, son of Mr. José Méndez Rivera y Mrs. Ana G. Méndez. In 1957, he obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from The Citadel, a military academy located in South Carolina, United States. Between 1968 and 1970, he did his graduate studies in the Planning School of the University of Puerto Rico, and in 1976, he obtained a certification in Educational Administration from the Institute of Educational Management of Harvard University in the United States. He has received two Doctor Honoris Causa degrees; one in in 2008, from the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Education of the Pedro Henríquez Ureña University in the Dominican Republic, and another in 2009, in Public Service, from Regis University in Colorado.
For almost 40 years, he has presided the Ana G. Méndez University System (SUAGM) composed of the Universidad del Este, Universidad Metropolitana, Universidad del Turabo, the Ana G. Méndez University-Virtual Campus, three university centers throughout the Island and four in the United States:Orlando, Tampa and Miramar, in the state of Florida, one in Wheaton, Maryland and one in Dallas, Texas. AGMUS, which serves over 44,600 students, also has a Sistema TV-Ana G. Méndez University Channel, an educational and cultural television station, the only one in Puerto Rico affiliated with the Public Broadcasting System (PBS).
Since he assumed the presidency of this University System in 1974, Dr. Méndez’ efforts have been aimed at expanding the educational opportunities of thousands of youths in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and the United States, as well as contributing to the socioeconomic development of our Island. Under his leadership, SUAGM has grown until becoming, in 2013, the largest private university system in Puerto Rico and the only one who has shown a sustained growth in the past ten years.
Dr. Méndez was very successful in establishing, in 1983, a strategic collaborative alliance with Jackson State University and Lawrence Berkley Laboratory of the University of California, which allowed the strengthening of the educational and investigative services that SUAGM currently offers. He was a pioneer by establishing, in 1973, the first collaboration agreement between SUAGM and several universities in the United States, for the purpose of combining efforts to promote better educational opportunities for Hispanics. Since then, he has been able to successfully implement other innovative projects and educational programs, among which the collaboration with other universities in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, Europe and the United States, may be highlighted. Through these consortium, the resources of important universities are combined to stimulate the interest of minority groups towards the study of science and technology
Under the presidency of Dr. Méndez, SUAGM has established collaboration agreements with national laboratories such as Sandia and Los Alamos in New Mexico, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in California, in addition to universities such as Jackson State University, New Mexico Highlands University, North Carolina A&T University, Pennsylvania State University, Tufts University, Regis University, Ohio State University, Florida International University, Andrés Bello University, in Chile, University of León, Pedro Henríquez Ureña University, in the Dominican Republic, Santiago de Compostela University and University of Granada, in Spain, and the Medical Sciences Campus of the University of Puerto Rico, among other institutions.
During his extensive career as President of SUAGM, he has established important relations in the United States Congress and with federal agencies, which have achieved a greater attention to educational affairs in Puerto Rico. Likewise, as part of his initiatives for SUAGM to achieve greater international projection, Méndez has promoted the development of strategic alliances with Ambassadors from different countries, which has enabled the establishment of joint projects for the benefit of his institutions. Among the strategies that Méndez has institutionalized is the Conference Program of Distinguished Ambassadors, through which he has achieved that dignitaries from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Spain, Costa Rica and Chile visit the institutions of SUAGM to offer master lectures.
Dr. Méndez has held important positions in educational organizations in Puerto Rico and the United States. He has been Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Hispanic Educational Technology Services (HETS), Vice President of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), he forms part of the group of Directors of the Universia Corporation of Puerto Rico, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, as well as other organizations. In Puerto Rico, he has been President of the Association of University Presidents and the Association of Private Colleges and Universities (ACUP) [Spanish Acronym].
Dr. Méndez has also actively participated in community organizations by presiding the Board of Directors of the American Red Cross, Puerto Rico Chapter, an organization which also granted him the Charles R. Drew Award, and made him the first Puerto Rican to receive this acknowledgment at a national level. He has also been a member of the Board of Directors of the Boy Scouts of America Council, Puerto Rico Chapter, of the United Funds, of the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce and the of the Society for Education and Rehabilitation of Puerto Rico (SER).
For his years of innumerable contributions to education and the well-being of the Puerto Rican community, Dr. Méndez has received various acknowledgments, among them: the Distinguished Award from the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB), the Franklin Covey Organizational Greatness Award, distinguished as Outstanding Educator by the Phi Delta Kappa, exalted to the Hall of Fame of the Association of Sales and Marketing Executives of San Juan (SME), Outstanding Educator of the Association for Communications and Educational Technology (ACTE) [Spanish acronym], Distinguished Citizen by the Boy Scouts of America, Puerto Rico Chapter, Man of the Year and Life Achievement Award from the Caribbean Business newspaper (specialized in business), award from the Puerto Rican Family Institute in the city of New York, acknowledgment from the Puerto Rico Construction Industry Conglomerate and the Chamber of Commerce, Marketing and Food Industry (MIDA) [Spanish acronym] for the social responsibility initiatives that SUAGM has promoted. The Chamber of Commerce of Puerto Rico (CCPR) acknowledged him with the Zenith Award and, in 2013, as leader of one of the 100 Most Outstanding Companies of Puerto Rico in the past 100 years, which the CCPR commemorated.
His life has been devoted to education and to improving the quality of life of his people. This is evidenced in the development of numerable projects of community impact attached to SUAGM, which Dr. Méndez has directed, such as the Public Policy Institute (IPP) [Spanish acronym], created in 1985, an organization whose objective is to promote the analysis and profound discussion of public policy matters, through forums, research, educational series and other activities. He has also obtained the support of the business and government sector for the establishment of regional economic development initiatives which integrate 49 municipalities of the Island, known as the Oriental Center Technological Initiative (INTECO) [Spanish acronym], Northern Technological Initiative (INTENOR), Northeastern Technological Initiative (INTENE) and Southern Integral Development (DISUR).
Convinced of the need for a new focus in the training and academic preparation of law enforcement officers in Puerto Rico, in 2011, he created the Security and Protection Institute (ISEP) [Spanish acronym], to offer an Associate Degree in Criminal. Since 2011, he was able to achieve that the Observatory of Arecibo, which had been administrated for almost five decades by the University of Cornell, be administrated by one of the institutions of SUAGM, the Universidad Metropolitana, together with the SRI International and the Universities Space Research Association, (USRA). Since then, he has presided the Council of Chancellors and Stakeholders of the Arecibo Observatory.
One of his most valuable legacies to help hundreds of young people achieve their academic goals was the creation, in 1994, of the Permanent Scholarship Fund for students of SUAGM, which has obtained the support of various companies, foundations and individuals that share his vision of providing a university education of excellence to talented students of low economic resources.
His educational efforts represent a serious commitment to teaching students to have vision to face the future, contribute to the continuous educational, social and cultural strengthening of their communities, as well as teaching them to rescue the highest values which exalt them as human beings.