Varsovia Fernandez Becomes First Latina to Chair Community College of Philadelphia's Board of Trustees

PHILADELPHIA, February 7, 2011—Community College of Philadelphia’s Board of Trustees has elected Varsovia Fernandez as its new chair. Fernandez is the first Latina to lead the board in the College’s 46-year history. She succeeds George E. Davis, former senior vice president of Human Resources for Lincoln Financial Group.

Fernandez, who is president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, was elected chair on Feb. 3, one day after Mayor Nutter made five appointments to the board, four of them new.

The new trustees are Bart Blatstein, founder and CEO of Tower Investments, Inc.; Willie Johnson, founder and chairman of PRWT Services, Inc.; Chad Lassiter, president, Black Men at Penn School of Social Work, Inc. and an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania; and Beatriz Vieira, vice president for Philanthropic Services at The Philadelphia Foundation. In addition, Mayor Nutter reappointed State Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr., 188th Legislative District, to the College’s Board of Trustees.

Fernandez leads a 15-member board that includes two other Hispanic womenVieira and attorney Lydia Hernández Vélez.

The trio will enhance the College’s outreach to the Hispanic community. Hispanics account for 10.4 percent of the current enrollment of more than 39,000 credit and noncredit students at the College. In recognition of its growing popularity among Hispanics as an educational resource, last October, the College received the 2010 Favorite Institution of Higher Education award at the Hispanic Choice Awards celebrated at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.

Fernandez, Hernández Vélez and Vieira all have strong ties to the Hispanic community. Fernandez has headed the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GPHCC) since March 2006. Under her leadership, the Chamber has achieved record levels of membership, revenues and member-driven activities.

Prior to GPHCC, Fernandez worked with Congreso de Latinos Unidos as vice president of External Affairs. She is actively committed to philanthropic work. In addition to the College’s Board of Trustees, she serves on the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the College’s Foundation Board, the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperative Authority and Philadelphia’s Zoning Code Commission.

Hernández Vélez has significant experience in finance, government and nonprofit enterprises. In October, Mayor Nutter named her deputy managing director for Aging for the City of Philadelphia. Previously, she served as head of the regional chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She also previously worked at the state’s Department of Banking, where she oversaw consumer fraud issues. She also previously was senior vice president of community relations for Wachovia Bank’s Atlantic region. She has been a member of Aspira, Inc. of Pa. for nearly 30 years. In 2007, she was named one of the Most Influential Latino Leaders in the Delaware Valley by Impacto Latin Newspaper.

Vieira helps The Philadelphia Foundation, a public charity community foundation, manage more than 800 charitable funds while maximizing the strategic impact of charitable contributions. She serves on the boards of numerous organizations working to address homelessness, domestic violence and women’s issues, while advocating on behalf of the Latino community and promoting arts and culture in Philadelphia.

Community College of Philadelphia is the largest public institution of higher education in the city. Since 1965, more than 630,000 students have earned associate’s degrees, certificates, and improved workplace skills. Many degree students transfer to four-year institutions while others seek employment in the Philadelphia region. More than 90 percent of the College’s graduates remain in the Greater Philadelphia region and seek employment, strengthening the local economy and workforce.