New Jersey Universities Inaugurate Immigrant Presidents

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October 15, 2011; Source: NJ.comA. Gabriel Esteban, 49, became the 20th president of Seton Hall University.  The first non-clergy to hold the post since the 1980s, Esteban is also the first Filipino-American head of a major U.S. university.  Nariman Farvardin, 54 and a native of Iran, was chosen as the seventh president of Stevens Institute of Technology.

Esteban arrived in California in 1988 and earned his doctorate in administration from the University of California at Irvine.  He had been serving as Seton Hall’s interim president when the board made the position permanent in January.

Farvardin came to the U.S. during the Iranian revolution and earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. He was serving as provost at the University of Maryland before taking over the reins of Stevens Institute of Technology.

Their stories are just two among the many immigrant tales of success born out of opportunity, hard work, and belief in the American Dream.

Farvardin, who barely spoke English when he first arrived, said, “I thank this magnificent and welcoming country for giving me a new home, for extending helping arms when I needed them, for allowing me to build a career in a way I could not have possibly built anywhere else in the world.”

Both men are examples of what good education can provide for immigrants and ultimately for the country. Esteban and Farvardin are responsible for steering the academic lives of thousands of students.

“In this country, maybe more so than anywhere else in the world, education has proven to be the great equalizer and allowed upward mobility,” Esteban said. “Education has become a symbol of hope.”

Education continues to be the path many see as the way to improving their fortunes and ensuring their children’s future, especially among those who give up so much to pursue the American Dream. Unfortunately, there are those who would deny deserving and hard-working immigrants the opportunity.

Perhaps the ascent of Esteban and Favardin will help remind all of us that immigrants do come to partake in America’s promise and also to help build a better future for all. –Erwin de Leon