Matilda Raffa Cuomo

Advocate for women, children and families, Matilda Raffa Cuomo has been described as the “most active first lady in New York State history.” As First Lady (1983-1995), she established the first state-wide, school-based, one-to-one mentoring program. By 1995, ten thousand children had been mentored by volunteers from corporations, schools and government and the groundwork laid for Mentoring USA and international extensions. Since its establishment, the program has expanded ages it serves and offerings to address LGBTQ+, Bias Related Anti-Violence Education, foster care and workplace mentoring. Matilda Cuomo co-chaired the Governor’s Commission on Child Care; chaired NY Citizens’ Task Force on the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect; led New York in the UN’s World Summit for Children and the US ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Born in Queens, Matilda Cuomo’s experiences as a first-generation American engendered her lifelong dedication to mentoring. Having had whole worlds opened by a teacher, she graduated cum laude from St. John’s University Teachers College and taught at Dutch Broadway School (Long Island). Wife and mother of five children, fourteen grandchildren, and one great grandson, Matilda Cuomo weaves together her life and life’s passion into mentoring understood as relationships, building awareness and respect for one’s own and others’ cultural heritage. As she said to Kingsborough College graduates: “Do what must be done to encourage a more intelligent, constructive and reasonable acceptance of our nation’s unique diversity, through dialogue…hard work and respect…a whole new world awaits building.”

Matilda Cuomo received the first Liberty Partnerships Lifetime Achievement Award and honorary degrees from Marymount Manhattan and Siena College. Author of “Simple Acts of Kindness” in What We Know So Far (1996) and editor of The Person Who Changed My Life: Prominent Americans Recall Their Mentors (1999, 2011), Matilda Cuomo currently chairs New York’s re-instated Mentoring Program.

Year Honored: 2017
Birth: 1931 -
Born In: New York
Achievements: Education, Government, Humanities, Philanthropy
Worked In: New York, United States of America
Educated In: New York, United States of America
Schools Attended: St. John’s University