She strives to be a university official that Latino students—who make up just 8 percent of the Stony Brook University student body—can be themselves around.

By Samantha Stainburn

“I was and still am very Latina. I wear that on my sleeve.”—Lynda Perdomo-Ayala ’78

Among the many hats worn by Lynda Perdomo-Ayala—the departmental administrator for pharmacological sciences at the School of Medicine at Stony Brook University Medical Center—is adviser to the university’s Latin-American Student Organization. Ms. Perdomo-Ayala strives to be a university official that Latino students—who make up just 8 percent of the Stony Brook University student body—can be themselves around. “I was and still am very Latina,” she says. “I wear that on my sleeve. My job here is all about being involved with them at their level.”

Ms. Perdomo-Ayala knows how important it is to help minority students feel comfortable in the new and often overwhelming environment of college. An only child, she grew up in a close extended Puerto Rican family in the Bronx; cousins lived upstairs in the same brownstone and down the block. Part of the first generation in her family to go to college, she was the first to leave home and live on a college campus. “I wanted to try a different environment and living on my own,” she says. But it was a more difficult transition than she anticipated. “I really missed that collective of people who were my support system,” she says. “You go home and no matter what you do, and how you act out, they still love you.” With a serious boyfriend back in the Bronx (they married a year after she graduated), Ms. Perdomo-Ayala found reasons to go back home nearly every weekend, which meant she was not as connected to campus as she could have been.

The friends she made at Adelphi, however—including Ms. Melendez, who was her roommate, Rose Guilbe ’78, now a physician at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, Ms. Ortiz and Ms. Alicea-Velez—kept her engaged with the University, she says. She served as president of La Union Latina in her senior year and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Ms. Perdomo-Ayala joined Stony Brook University in 1986 as administrator of the Department of Economics, where she helped manage a $2 million feasibility study on hospitals in Latin America and the Caribbean and was assistant to the director of the Institute for Decision Sciences in addition to day-to-day management of the second largest major on campus. In 1992, she moved to the medical school, where she helped establish the department’s undergraduate pharmacology program and manages strategic program planning, finances and staff development for the $14 million department. Along the way, she earned a master’s degree in social welfare from Stony Brook and certification in conflict resolution from Cornell University. 

Ms. Perdomo-Ayala is a connector, someone who can bring diverse groups of people together to have conversations, a talent that’s benefited the many community organizations at which she’s volunteered since her family moved to Suffolk County in the 1980s. Ms. PerdomoAyala serves on the Suffolk County Women’s Advisory Commission and is a past president of the Long Island chapter of the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women, among many other board and committee memberships. When she joined the board of the Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk County (VIBS), an organization that assists survivors of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, in 1999, she looked for ways for VIBS to combine forces with Stony Brook University to improve care for victims of sexual assault. That resulted in the establishment of a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners Center at the medical center, which treats sexual assault victims and offers forensics training to nurses, and a joint grant to prevent sexual assault on college campuses. In March, VIBS presented Ms. PerdomoAyala with a Lifetime Service Award for her accomplishments.

The conversations about work and life that Ms. Perdomo-Ayala and her friends started at Adelphi continue to this day, she says. “I talk to them constantly,” she says. “These are women I still have a strong relationship with. They’re like the sisters I didn’t have.”

This piece appeared in the Adelphi University Magazine Spring 2012 edition.

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