A Legacy of Leadership

Celebrating the Accomplishments of Indiana University’s Latino Community
Oliver Winery
8024 N. State Road 37
Bloomington, Indiana
April 24, 2015


Thank you very much Luis (Fuentes-Rohwer), for that kind introduction.

And let me commend you and your fellow members of the board of the Latino Faculty and Staff Council—Luis Hernandez, Israel Herrera, Sandy Britton, and Lillian Casillas—for your dedicated efforts to help strengthen the bonds between member’s of IU’s Latino community and for all that you do to assist the campus in the recruitment and retention of Latino faculty and staff.

Through events like the one tonight, you also help to bring much-deserved recognition to the many accomplishments of members of IU’s Latino community.

I want to begin by introducing Indiana University’s First Lady, my wife, Laurie Burns McRobbie.

Laurie and I are delighted to be here this evening to help celebrate the achievements of Indiana University’s Latino students, faculty and staff and the invaluable contributions they make to the university and to our community.

Commitment to Diversity is Fundamental to the University’s Success

The enduring success of a great university, especially a great public institution like Indiana University, is predicated in large part on its commitment to embracing diversity in the broadest sense.

As part of that commitment, we recruit students and faculty from diverse cultural backgrounds. We strive to ensure that cultural diversity is well represented in the curriculum. And we seek to continually foster interactional diversity—ensuring that members of our community who come from diverse backgrounds interact with one another in educationally purposeful ways.

For through continued interaction with others who hold views that differ from our own—whose life experiences are vastly different from ours—our minds are opened to new ways of understanding. We comprehend. We empathize. We learn.

Indiana University has a legacy of leadership in diversity that traces back decades.

That legacy includes Herman B Wells’ groundbreaking efforts to fully integrate IU and the city of Bloomington. It includes athletes like Bill Garrett and George Taliaferro, who broke racial barriers in their respective sports. It includes the leadership of IU administrators and faculty members such as Herman Hudson, James Holland, Charlie Nelms, Ed Marshall, and his successor as Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs, James Wimbush, who is here tonight.

Many other students, faculty, administrators, and staff have worked to continue and build upon this legacy. And work continues to ensure that Indiana University fosters a climate that does not merely tolerate differences but treasures them; and that we provide rich opportunities for learning from those differences.

A Legacy of Latino Leadership

Latino students, faculty, and staff have made many vital contributions to Indiana University’s legacy of leadership in diversity over many years, and are an integral part of the university’s history and its future.

That legacy includes Lucius Rivera, of Indianapolis, who became the first Latino student to earn an IU degree when he graduated in 1910 with an MD degree.

It includes Hector-Neri Castañeda and Alberto Torchinski, who served as deans of IU’s Office of Latino Affairs.

It includes the first tenured Latina professor on the Bloomington campus, Iris Rosa, who continues to serve as director of IU’s African American Dance Company.

It includes Latino Faculty and Staff Council board member, Israel Fernando Herrera, who was named the Indiana Latino Educator of the Year in 2014 by the Indiana Latino Expo and the Indianapolis Mayor's Office for his contributions to education in the state and the nation.

It includes the leadership of the first Latino academic dean at Indiana University, Gerardo Gonzalez, about whom I will say more later in the program.

It includes many accomplished students, among them, senior Mara González Souto, who has been selected to serve as the student speaker for the upcoming IU Bloomington undergraduate commencement ceremony.

And, of course, this legacy includes the important work of the Latino Culture Center, La Casa, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2013. In the early 1970s, members of IU’s growing Latino student population came together to ask the university to establish the center, which has now been a “home away from home” for Latina and Latino students for more than four decades. Under the able leadership of Lillian Casillas, La Casa also continues to work closely with other campus units to assist in student recruitment and retention.

Today, IU has nearly 10,000 Latino alumni and a thriving Latino Alumni Association, led by Kelley School of Business alumnus Martin Vargas and School of Public Health alumnus Adam Karcz, who is here tonight.

Recruiting And Retaining Students From Diverse, Underserved Populations

We also continue to see increases in the percentages of under-represented domestic minorities at IU Bloomington. This fall, the freshman class represented the largest number of underrepresented minority students in IU Bloomington’s history.

Enrollment of Hispanic students at IU Bloomington increased by 9.1 percent over the previous year, and university-wide enrollment increased by 7.8 percent for Hispanic students.

Still, the university must continue to do more to attract talented minority students to our campuses—especially in Bloomington and especially among Latino students.

A 2013 assessment by Indiana University’s Indiana Business Research Center shows an 82 percent increase in Indiana’s Hispanic population over the last decade and predicts that the Hispanic population will continue to grow.1

And, according to 2010 federal education statistics, Latinos represent 16 percent of the United States population but earn only 8 percent of undergraduate degrees conferred.2

So it is imperative that we identify and address the obstacles that stand between many minority students and a college education. This is a complex challenge that can only be met if parents, communities, secondary educators and institutions such as IU work together.

As you know, Indiana University will celebrate its Bicentennial during the 2019-2020 academic year. You may also know that our trustees have approved an ambitious Bicentennial Strategic Plan, which will guide our efforts over the next five years.

The plan reflects our commitment to build upon our efforts to ensure that an Indiana University education is accessible and affordable for qualified students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, including first-generation college students, veterans, and students from under-represented minorities. In fact, as I noted in my State of the University Address on October 14th, it is our goal, by the Bicentennial, to ensure that the student populations on all our campuses more closely reflect the ethnic composition of their regions. All students must be given the best chance to succeed in their chosen educational path.

Toward this end, last fall, IU Foundation President Dan Smith invited a number of prominent alumni and friends of the university to serve on the newly launched Indiana University Advisory Council for Diversity.

Late last year, I met with the members of the council and charged them with advising the university on issues that impact this mission and asked them to assist the university in identifying potential donors and raising funds to help attract and retain high performing students representing diverse and underserved populations.

Joyce Rogers, the former president and CEO of the Indiana Black Expo, who now serves as the IU Foundation’s vice president for development and external relations for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs and senior advisor for strategic development initiatives, works closely with the council.

Maria Quintana, who recently retired as executive vice president with JP Morgan Chase in Indianapolis and who is an alumna of Kelley School of Business, serves on the Diversity Council. Maria also serves on the board of the Indiana Latino Institute and, last year, received the National Football League’s Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award.

Another prominent IU alumna, Jeanette Hanna-Ruiz, recently wrote a letter that was part of the Diversity Council’s first university-wide appeal addressed to diverse populations. Jeanette, an alumna of the Maurer School of Law, is now a director at Microsoft, and formerly served as a senior advisor to the Department of Homeland Security where she was responsible for a number of issues involving national security, risk management, identity management, and cybersecurity.

The Diversity Council plans to enlist the assistance of additional Latino alumni in the near future.

To build further on IU’s efforts to foster diversity, Vice President Wimbush’s office recently engaged a consulting group to assess our progress on diversity and inclusion and to provide benchmarks in this area. Yolanda Trevino, who recently joined the leadership team in DEMA as Assistant Vice President for Strategy, Planning and Assessment, is leading this effort.

I commend them all for their dedicated efforts to make Indiana University a more diverse and inclusive place.

International Dimensions: The Future Of Global Education

With one of the largest international student populations in the United States, IU also has great strength in international diversity. These international students, growing numbers of whom are from Latin America, diversify and enrich our student body giving American students a direct experience here of working with and getting to know foreign students and their cultures, which can lead to life-long relationships.

In 2012, I led an IU delegation to South America, where Laurie and I visited Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. In 2014, we also visited Peru. The trip was the first visit to South America by a sitting president of IU since John Ryan visited Peru and Brazil 40 years ago. And in the case of Argentina, it had been 70 years since Herman Wells’ visit to that country. Next year, I will return to Ecuador to give an invited lecture at Universidad San Francisco deQuito.

Our purpose in making those visits in 2012 was to reach out to our alumni in South America and renew their connections to IU; to encourage more of our students to study abroad in Latin America; to encourage more students from these countries to study at IU; to foster more faculty collaboration between IU and institutions in these countries; and to sign a number of institutional agreements to support all these.

When Indiana University partners with universities in countries like Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, we recognize the increasingly global nature of higher education. Young people all across Latin America have opportunities their parents and grandparents could not even have imagined, all because of higher education. By working with universities in these and many other places, IU can help shape the future of global education for generations to come.

Of course, IU is also home to renowned research institutes that study Latin America, including the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, which was founded in 1963 as the Latin American Studies Program, and the more recently established Brazilian Studies Program, which fosters interdisciplinary research to bridge the social sciences and humanities. And our Latino Studies Program offers a number of courses in Latino culture, literature, history, politics, and social systems through which students can earn an undergraduate minor or a doctoral minor.

Building Diversity as an Essential Strength

These are just a few of the initiatives in which we are currently engaged that will ensure that Indiana University is more diverse and inclusive as we enter our third century of service.

At Indiana University, diversity is an essential strength. We seek to build it purposefully—by offering scholarships, support services, and other programs that help recruit and retain a diverse student body, and by being ever mindful of the need to further diversify the faculty and staff. We seek to prepare students to live and work in a diverse society by building our university community on the basis of diversity. 

We must continue to make every effort to develop Indiana University Bloomington as a diverse, multicultural academic community that will serve as a model for higher education, the state of Indiana, and society at large.

It is an enormous challenge.

But on this campus there are many people—and many of them are here tonight—who accept this challenge and who dedicate themselves with passion to making it a reality.

Thank you very much for your commitment to this important work and for all that you do to enhance our common future.

Special Achievement Award to Gerardo Gonzalez

Now, it is my great pleasure to honor the accomplishments of a man who, throughout his successful tenure at IU, has been a tireless advocate for the value of schools of education, and who has been a leading authority on the Cuban-American experience and Hispanic educational concerns: Gerardo Gonzalez.

Gerardo announced last fall that he would retire from his administrative role after 15 years as University Dean of the IU School of Education on June 30th of this year. He is currently IU Bloomington’s longest-serving academic dean and one of the longest-serving deans of a School of Education in the nation. I am very pleased that he will continue his service to IU as a member of the School of Education faculty and that he will stay on to advise the university on opportunities for educational collaboration between Cuba and the U.S.

When he was 11 years old, Gerardo’s family left Cuba and immigrated to Florida following the 1959 Cuban revolution.

He has spoken about how the schools in South Florida were ill equipped to deal with the influx of children who spoke only Spanish. Nevertheless, Gerardo enrolled in Miami-Dade Community College, were he discovered a tremendous love of learning—and an aptitude for academic success. He received an associate’s degree from Miami-Dade, then went on to earn bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from the University of Florida, the state’s leading research university.

He remained at the University of Florida for many years as a faculty member, serving as Professor and Chair of Counselor Education, Associate Dean for Administration and Finance, Assistant Dean for Student Services, and Interim Dean in the College of Education.

In 2000, Gerardo came to Indiana University, becoming the first Latino dean of a school of any IU campus when he assumed the deanship of the School of Education in 2000.

As one School of Education faculty member writes: “Gerardo is the personification of the dream held by so many Latino immigrants and others in this country. What he could not have possibly imagined as an 11 year old quite literally just off the boat in Miami has come to pass because of persistence and …his strongly-held belief that education is the great equalizer for all in our society.”3

As University Dean of the IU School of Education, Gerardo has directed administrative and budgetary activities on the Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses and provided academic oversight to schools and departments of education on IU’s six regional campuses.

Under his leadership, the IU School of Education has consistently been one of the nation’s leading institutions in terms of producing exceptional teachers, researchers and educational innovators—at a time when there is an increasing demand for highly qualified teachers around the nation.

During his tenure, U.S. News & World Report has consistently ranked the school among the nation’s top schools of education, most recently 25th overall and 15th among public university graduate schools. A number of its specialties are ranked in the Top Ten. Last year, U.S. News ranked the school’s online program as Number Two in the country.

Gerardo’s belief in the importance of rigorous and well-rounded teacher training is reflected in his own substantial and diverse body of research, which spans the areas of educational administration, multicultural counseling, and alcohol and drug education, among others.

Gerardo has also been a tireless advocate for diversity, supporting programs that focus on equity in schools, urban education, and first generation students.

In 2003, the Latino Faculty and Staff Council honored Gerardo with its Service Award for his advocacy on behalf of educational equity and access for underrepresented groups. In 2012, Hispanic Business magazine named him one of the 50 most influential Hispanics in the United States.

I am very pleased to add to his honors tonight.

Gerardo, would you please join me at the podium?

Gerardo, to recognize the depth of your service to Indiana University and the Latino community, the Latino Faculty and Staff Council has created a new award—the Special Achievement Award—which is being given tonight for the first time.

So, in recognition of all that you have done to help make the IU School of Education one of the nation’s leading schools of its kind; for your advocacy on behalf of Latinos and underrepresented groups more broadly; and for your contributions to our understanding of the educational concerns of members of the Latino community; it is my great pleasure to present you with the Indiana University Latino Faculty and Staff Council’s Special Achievement Award.


Source Notes

  1. “Indiana Census Data Shows Rise in Latino Population,” IndyLatino.com, Web, URL: http://indylatino.com/2013/05/02/indiana-census-data-shows-rise-in-latino-population/
  2. Katherine Mangan, “Educators Push Efforts to Get More Latino Men Into College,” Chronicle of Higher Education, June 26, 2011.
  3. Personal correspondence