Meet Rockland Community College's new president


Lester Edgardo Sandres Rápalo has been selected as Rockland Community College's eighth president. Photo: RCC website

A Bronx Community College administrator has been chosen to become Rockland Community College's new president.

Lester Edgardo Sandres Rápalo becomes the eighth president in the SUNY school's 64-year history, according to an announcement posted on RCC's website. He succeeds Michael Baston, who stepped down in 2022.

RCC's Board of Trustees approved Rápalo's appointment March 13, and SUNY did the same June 6. He formally takes office on July 1.

Rápalo comes to RCC after serving as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Bronx Community College, City University of New York (CUNY). He was responsible for the school's $140 million budget, and supervised five deans, 15 academic departments, 260 full-time faculty, and 440 adjuncts. 

He was also involved in CUNY-wide (25 colleges and universities in total) governance, including serving as the co-chair of the Recognizing and Rewarding Excellence in Teaching Task Force Committee and membership in the CUNY Academic Council.

During Rápalo's tenure,  the college won the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and helped secure a $3 million grant to build academic programs and improve program quality to retain Hispanic students. Rápalo has also worked to strengthen the workforce development initiatives at Bronx Community College.

Born in Honduras, Rápalo speaks Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese.

The announcement concludes a national search that started in September 2022. Salary range for the position was advertised as starting at $220,000, according to the job posting on the national search firm Isaacson, Miller’s website. The college has an annual budget of about $72 million, according to the job posting. 

The Technology Center on Rockland Community College's main campus is Ramapo. Contributed photo

RCC’s enrollment of about 6,251 full- and part-time students includes 60 international students and more than 1,184 students over 25 years old. RCC is also home to about 70 veteran students each year, according to its website. It employs 386 full- and part-time faculty. 

Besides its main campus off College Road in Ramapo, the school has a Hospitality and Culinary Arts Center in Nyack, the Herbert Kurz Automotive Technology Center in Orangeburg, and an extension center in the Village of Haverstraw.

“Dr. Rápalo is an ideal fit for Rockland Community College," stated Martin Wortendyke, chair of RCC's Board of Trustees. "We believe he will chart an exciting course that will take RCC into the future. His strong academic background, extensive involvement in community outreach, and his leadership efforts with regard to developing Hispanic-Serving Institution programs are the bedrock of what we were seeking in a new president. We look forward to seeing his vision for RCC take shape."

Rápalo stated he was looking forward to building on RCC's programs to ensure quality education and pathways to employment and workforce training. "There has been no greater time to assume this crucial role and I thank the search committee for the opportunity to contribute to RCC’s legacy of excellence,” he stated.

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