The news hit home last November for the class of '64 - Sila Calderon was elected the first woman governor of Puerto Rico. "Everyone was thrilled," said Elizabeth Byrne McMillan '64, one of 16 classmates who attended Calderon's inauguration on Jan. 2. McMillan described the event as "an experience of a lifetime."
Calderon came to Manhattanville in 1960, graduating in 1964 with a Bachelor-of-Arts degree in Political Science. Her thesis on Puerto Rico earned her honors. She also received an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from Manhattanville. Although there were many political organizations at Manhattanville at the time, Calderon was not a participant. Yet, she was a member of the student government.
Calderon spoke of her Manhattanville experience as "one in which the entire student body, with a sense of community and friendship, strives together towards a better understanding of the human experience, its history, its values and its possibilities. I felt that Manhattanville's strengths were its commitment to a truly liberal education and its concern with social issues and real ties."
After graduating from Manhattanville, Calderon attended the Graduate School of Public Administration at the University of Puerto Rico from 1970 to 1972. Her political career began in 1973 when she was appointed executive assistant to the Labor Secretary and special assistant to Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon. In 1985, Calderon became the first woman chief of staff in Puerto Rico, and during the next two years, she went on to become secretary of the governorship, secretary of state and lieutenant governor. In 1995, she won the nomination for mayor of San Juan in a primary election, and in 1996, she was elected mayor.
Three years when Calderon was Mayor of San Juan, Richard Berman invited her to Manhattanville to deliver the Baccalaureate address in 1997, stressing the importance of the school's values and the meaning of integrity. She gave the following advice: "Embrace the joy of life. Take risks. Deal with uncertainty. Transform any fear into positive energy. Develop your mind, while listening to your heart. And always, stay in close touch with your emotions."
Sila has been active hosting events for us in Puerto Rico for alumni, prospective students and their families. Berman says "We are proud of her as she demonstrates that Manhattanville graduates can achieve anything they want-- they are successful as they continue to make this a better community and world."