While some Baruch College graduates pursue endeavors in far-flung locales, others find boundless opportunity right outside their alma mater’s doorstep—to the great benefit of the city Baruch calls home. Case in point: New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (MPA ’95), New York City Fire Department Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro (’71) (above), and April Leong (’96), founder and principal of the Liberation Diploma Plus High School in Brooklyn. These alumni, representing all three Baruch schools, have attracted notice and accolades from the media and others for their achievements as high-profile, history-making leaders in New York City government and education administration.

1234CitySealMelissa Mark-Viverito: City Council Speaker

Mark-Viverito, a graduate of the School of Public Affairs’ Master of Public Administration program (in partnership with the National Urban Fellows Program), was elected to the New York City Council in 2005, representing East Harlem and parts of the Bronx—the first Puerto Rican woman and Latina elected to the 8th Council District. She made history again last January when she was elected speaker, thus becoming the first Puerto Rican and first Latina to hold a citywide elected position. She was awarded the Distinguished Alumna Award at the College’s Annual Community Reception in December 2013.

Before being elected speaker, Mark-Viverito served as chair of the City Council’s Committee on Parks and Recreation and co-chair of the council’s Progressive Caucus. Her legislative agenda has focused on issues affecting working-class and low-income families, youth, seniors, and immigrant communities.

Mark-Viverito has been a strong supporter of the City University of New York, helping fund needed operating and capital projects across the University. Under her leadership, this year the City Council restored $11.1 million in merit scholarships to first-year students attending CUNY. Said Mark-Viverito, “As the costs of higher education rise, we must do everything we can to ensure that it remains affordable for the young people who are our city’s future.”

CitySealDaniel Nigro: New York City Fire Department Commissioner

Zicklin School of Business graduate Daniel Nigro was sworn in as the 33rd commissioner of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) last June, becoming only the sixth person to have held every top rank in the Fire Department in its 145-year history. Commissioner Nigro has been credited with keeping the FDNY moving forward after the loss of 343 members during the terrorist attacks of 9/11. He was also a driving force in the city’s successful merger of the FDNY and Emergency Medical Services in 1996.

Daniel-NigroOf his experience attending Baruch College in the late 1960s, which he terms “an era of transition in America,” Nigro recalls that “Baruch maintained a focused, businesslike perspective” that shaped his own leadership style. Among the salient lessons he carried forth throughout his career: “Attention to detail is important, and hard work earns success, while loss of focus carries consequences.”

As commissioner, Nigro notes that his priority is “to continue to protect all who live in and visit New York City and to enhance the safety of [the FDNY’s] members.” He also envisions an FDNY that better reflects the city’s diversity and that maintains “a welcoming environment that is inclusive of all those who enter our department.”


April Leong: Founder/Principal, Liberation Diploma Plus High School

After graduating from the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences, April Leong pursued a career in public service because, she explains, “I feel I was placed on this earth to be in service to others who are in need of help.” Her convictions eventually led her to establish the Liberation Diploma Plus High School in 2007. Located in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, the alternative school currently serves 189 students who are at risk of dropping out because they are over-age or under-credited.

The mission of her school is reflective of the West African tradition of ‘Sankofa,’ a term, Leong explains, that means “you must go back in order to move forward.” To do that, students have to “examine who they are and why they made the decisions that landed them in the positions they are in” so that they “take ownership and understand that they have the power of choice.”

The students view Leong not just as a principal but as a mother figure. However, this mothering comes with a healthy dose of tough love: Liberation students are required to write a personal essay, create a resume, take part in internships, and apply to college. In recognition of her work, Leong, a 2013 recipient of a Daily News Hometown Heroes in Education award, was one of six “Outstanding Public Servants” honored in June with a Sloan Public Service Award. The award recognizes New York City civil servants and comes with a $10,000 grant.

[divider sid=”divider-1415289852″ type=”dotted”][dropcap sid=”dropcap-1415289887″]C[/dropcap]ommenting on the character and caliber of Baruch alumni, Dean David Birdsell of the School of Public Affairs—which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year—said Baruch’s graduates are widely recognized in the areas of municipal government, nonprofit and educational administration, and policy analysis and evaluation. He noted that alumni Mark-Viverito, Nigro, and Leong offer wonderful examples of “how lives lived with dedication and passion improve the safety, access to opportunity, and quality of government in New York. We could not be more proud of these three exemplary alumni and New Yorkers.”

—Article authored by Eric Lugo (MA ’14). Lugo is a graduate of Baruch’s Master of Arts in Corporate Communication program and is the College’s director of government and community relations.

Photography: Mark-Viverito photo by William Alatriste, courtesy of the NYC Council; Nigro photo courtesy of the FDNY; Leong photo by Jerry Speier


Baruchians hold key leadership roles in city, state, and federal government, including: 

ALEJANDRA CEJA (MPA ’00), Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

SIMCHA FELDER (MBA ’89), NYS Senator (Brooklyn, 17th S.D.), Chairperson of the Committee on Children and Families

CARL E. HEASTIE (MBA ’07), NYS Assembly Member (Bronx, 83rd A.D.), Chair of the Committee on Labor, Chairman of the Bronx County Democratic Committee

RON KIM (MPA ’06), NYS Assembly Member (Queens, 40th A.D.)

J. GARY PRETLOW (’78), NYS Assembly Member (Mt. Vernon/Yonkers, 89th A.D.), Chair of the Racing and Wagering Committee

VANESSA L. GIBSON (MPA ’09), NYC Council Member (Bronx, 16th C.D.), Chair of the Committee on Public Safety

JEFFREY S. RODUS (EMPA ’99), Deputy Chief of Staff to NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (MPA ’95)

ORLANDO MARIN (MPA ’91), Commissioner of the NYC Department of City Planning