SF State to honor champions of ethnic studies on Oct. 2

College of Ethnic Studies will honor labor leader, poet and family of Native scholars, among others


SAN FRANCISCO, September 27, 2011 -- San Francisco State University’s College of Ethnic Studies will honor four individuals, an organization and a family as champions in the field of ethnic studies and civil rights.  The awards mark the 42nd anniversary of the founding of the College of Ethnic Studies, the only one of its kind in the U.S.

The awards are given annually to recognize individuals who have contributed significantly to the College of Ethnic Studies, the field of ethnic studies or have demonstrated exemplary leadership in service to diverse communities. Awardees are nominated and selected by the College’s faculty. 


Reporters are invited to cover the Oct. 2 reception and ceremony:

Date: Sunday, Oct. 2 at 11:30 a.m. (reception, followed by awards ceremony)

Location: Medjool Restaurant, 2522 Mission St., San Francisco

Reporters should RSVP to Nan Broadbent at nbroadbe@sfsu.edu or (415) 338-7108.


2011 Honorees:

Lifetime Achievement Award:

Dolores Huerta, co-founder of United Farm Workers, will be recognized for her significant contributions to the civil rights and social justice movements and the advancement of the field of ethnic studies. The mother of 11 children, Huerta is an internationally recognized advocate for women’s rights and reproductive freedom. A major force in the American civil rights movement, she continues to develop community leaders among immigrants, women, youth and the working poor through the Dolores Huerta Foundation.

Exemplary Leadership Awards:

Founded in 1962, the United Farm Workers (UFW) is the nation's largest farm workers' union. Key UFW victories throughout the nation include contracts with the largest strawberry, rose, winery and mushroom firms in California. UFW-sponsored laws and regulations to aid farm workers include the first state regulation in the U.S. to prevent heat deaths.  UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez will accept the award.

Beatriz Leyva-Cutler (B.A., ’79) is an activist who has worked to eliminate the education achievement gap among minority students, Leyva-Cutler is the Berkeley School Board President. Since 1988, she has been the executive director of the Bay Area Hispano Institute for Advancement (BAHIA), a bilingual child development program that provides families with high quality, bilingual learning environments to encourage successful lifelong learning.

Janice Mirikitani (attended ‘66 – '67) is the founding president of the Glide Foundation at San Francisco's Glide Memorial Church where she and her husband, Reverend Cecil Williams, have developed more than 87 programs to serve the poor and homeless of San Francisco. The author of four books of poetry and editor of nine poetry anthologies, Mirikitani is also a Poet Laureate of San Francisco.

Jerry W. Varnado (B.A., ’69) was one of the leaders of the Black Student Union and the SF State student strike that led to the founding of the College of Ethnic Studies, serving a year in jail for his participation. He earned a law degree from the University of California Hastings College of Law and is currently a consultant to foreign businesses and teaches international trade and development at Berkeley City College. Varnado is noted for his work in prisoners’ rights cases and has remained involved with the community, in such efforts as the Western Addition Area Committee, KPOO radio, the “Up from Darkness” drug rehabilitation program and the San Francisco Juneteenth observation.

Siblings Paula Gunn Allen, Lee Francis III and Carol Lee Sanchez Allen, of Laguna Pueblo-Metis-Scots heritage, will be posthumously honored for their careers in higher education and advancement of the field of American Indian Studies. Paula Gunn Allen, the recipient of many distinguished literary awards for her books about American Indian lives -- including an American Book Award -- was a director of the American Indian Studies program at SF State. Lee Francis, III, an SF State alumnus (B.A., ’82, M.A., ‘83), taught Native American and American studies at several universities including American University and the University of New Mexico. He also served the United States government as an assistant to Senator Pete V. Domenici, and in the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. Carol Lee Sanchez Allen taught American Indian studies, ethnic studies and women’s studies at SF State, San Francisco Art Institute, Mills College, and the University of Missouri, Columbia. A prolific writer and artist, Sanchez Allen was a director of the California Poets in the Schools program.