May 18, 2019 / By Colleen Wright
Though he’s not gone yet, Miami Dade College President Eduardo J. Padrón received no shortage of parting gifts on Friday. Dignitaries bore him proclamations, keys to the city, keys to the college, a LEGO replica of downtown Miami’s iconic Freedom Tower, and a Southwest 6th Street sign with a new moniker: Eduardo J. Padrón Street.
But the ultimate gift for his impending retirement was perched high above Miami Dade College’s Little Havana outpost. What was once the InterAmerican Campus was officially renamed the Eduardo J. Padrón Campus. A new sign was unveiled.
Politicians, academics, family and friends of Miami Dade College, and Padrón gathered on the parking garage’s rooftop Friday to dedicate the campus to its president of nearly 25 years and faculty member for almost half a century. Padrón announced in February that he would step down in August, prompting a national search to find his successor.
That’ll be hard to do, according to the praise that many showered him with on Friday.
“So many people in this room … owe their life careers to you, Dr. Padrón,” said the event’s emcee, Juan Mendieta, the college’s director of communications.
Politicians took turns honoring Padrón and recalling their own experiences as MDC students, friendly elbowing each other as Padrón’s favorite. MDC board chair Bernie Navarro donned red plastic sunglasses to pay homage to Padron’s signature look.
“Although I’m his boss, he is a second father and a mentor,” Navarro said.
“Bernie, you can put on all the sunglasses you want,” quipped Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, “but you’ll never be as cool as Eduardo.”
Political rivals Gimenez and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez each declared May 17 as Eduardo J. Padrón campus day. Suarez also gave Padrón keys to the city and announced a proposal to begin a scholarship in his name.
“I’m not trying to one-up the county mayor,” Suarez said, drawing chuckles from the crowd.
The event was full of frills tailored to Padrón. The presentation of the colors was by the JROTC from Miami Senior High School, Padrón’s alma mater. The Miami Dade College Symphony Orchestra played before panoramic views of downtown and south Miami- Dade that might soon be viewed by Padrón from his office as president emeritus.
“This is something I never dreamed would happen,” Padrón said. “It’s happening today, and I still can’t believe it.”
Padrón acknowledged the college as his own family but took time in his speech to address his son, Camilo, whose football games and piano recitals he had to miss because of work commitments.
“You know that my family is everything. You know that I not only have you but an extended family that is Miami Dade College,” Padrón said. “You are my support system, you are my safety net, you are the source of my strength.”
Padrón came to the United States from Cuba as an unaccompanied teen in the Pedro Pan operation.
“Frankly, my name being engraved, etched in the walls of the college, it’s not just about me … it’s about what I represent,” Padrón said. “I represent the efforts and the perseverance and the sacrifices of so many people and families that knew that education was the only way to achieve the American dream.”
He added: “It may say Eduardo Padrón, but really … it represents the village of people that have made it possible.”