Sept. 9, 1999
Governor Pedro Rossell? is a magna cum laude 1966 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, where he played No. 1 singles and served as captain of the men?s varsity tennis team. He received the Byron V. Kanaley Award, the most prestigious honor awarded to a Notre Dame senior monogram winner who has been exemplary both as students and leaders, and also was honored as a student-athlete leader with the Dome sports tribute. Gov. Rossell? continued his education at the Yale University School of Medicine, where he was President of his senior class and earned his M.D. degree cum laude in 1970. He specialized in general and pediatric surgery as a clinical fellow and instructor in surgery at Harvard Medical School and completed his senior and chief residencies in pediatric surgery at Children?s Hospital in Boston.
In 1976 Gov. Rossell? returned to Puerto Rico to start a pediatric surgery practice and accepted a teaching post at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR). During his career as a pediatric surgeon and professor of medicine, Gov. Rossell? published dozens of research papers, made presentations at numerous professional conferences and received a master?s degree in public health magna cum laude from UPR in 1981.
In 1985 he plunged full-time into public service, accepting an appointment as director of Heath for the City of San Juan. Three years later, he entered politics and nearly unseated the territory?s incumbent Congressional delegate. In 1991 Gov. Rossell? was elevated to the chairmanship of the island?s New Progressive Party (NPP), a coalition of Democrats, Republicans and independents who favor Puerto Rico?s admission into the Union as America?s 51st state. That set the stage for his 1992 gubernatorial nomination and the first of the NPP?s two most decisive victories ever (his 1996 reelection was by the largest margin of any Puerto Rican governor in 32 years).
Since taking office, Gov. Rossell? has exhibited relentless energy in pursuing major structural changes for Puerto Rican society. Topping the list is his heath-care reform initiative, which is making private health-insurance accessible to the island?s entire population. Also under his leadership, Puerto Rico?s crime rate has been halved, income taxes have been slashed by an average of 20%, unemployment has plummeted to its lowest level in more than two decades, community schools have replaced a centralized public education bureaucracy and civil servants have been granted both unprecedented generous salary hikes and the right to unionize.
Outside of Puerto Rico, Gov. Rossell? has earned recognition as a statesman of hemispheric prominence. In 1998 — while serving simultaneously as President of the Council of State Governments, Chair of the Democratic Governors? Association and Chairman of the Southern Governors? Association (SGA) — he was the only governor included in the United States delegation to the 34-nation Summit of the Americas at Santiago, Chile. In the summer at that year, no fewer than six Presidents of Latin American nations accepted his invitation to participate at the SGA Annual meeting in which Rossell? served as host.
Gov. Rossell? and his wife, the former Maga Nevares, are the parents of three sons: Juan Oscar (28), Luis Roberto (26), a 1995 graduate of Notre Dame, and Ricardo Antonio (20).