Whittier College News Release

Whittier College
Office of Public Relations
13406 Philadelphia St.
P.O. Box 634
Whittier, CA 90608-0634


Media Contact: 562.907.4974 or mediarelations@whittier.edu


--Martinez Joins Prominent Real Estate Consultant, Olympic Athlete, and Biochemist

Who Will Receive Honorary Degrees-- 

Whittier, CA (April 21, 2005)—Announced today, Rueben Martinez, owner of Libreria Martinez Books and Art Gallery, co-founder of the Latino Book Festival, and a 2004 MacArthur Fellow, will give the address to Whittier College’s 102nd graduating class. Martinez will receive an honorary doctorate in humane letters from the college at that time, along with fellow recipients Alfred J. Gobar, Whittier College alumnus, trustee, and retired president of real estate consulting firm, Alfred Gobar Associates, Inc.; Rafer Johnson, Olympic champion decathlete and co-founder of the California Special Olympics; and Dr. Gordon Sato, biochemist and director of the Manzanar Project.  

Commencement will take place Friday, May 27, 9:00 a.m., on Whittier College’s Memorial Field. Bachelor’s degrees will be awarded to 265 candidates and master’s degrees to 21. 

The son of copper miners, Rueben Martinez began his work as a barber who lent reading materials to his customers.  Now he is among the largest commercial sellers of Spanish-language books in the country.  A co-founder of the Latino Book Festival, which tours nationally, Martinez is a leading advocate for literacy and cultural education in the Latino community. In 2004 he won a MacArthur Foundation fellowship—often called a “genius grant”—for “fusing the roles of marketplace and community center to inspire appreciation of literature and preserve Latino literary heritage." In 2005 Martinez was named to INC. magazine’s “26 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs” list. 

Alfred J. Gobar has contributed his expertise to Whittier College as a leader and member of the Board of Trustees since 1992. Earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Whittier, Gobar holds a doctorate from the University of Southern California. He has had a distinguished career as an engineer, businessman and educator, and he is the founder of one of the nation’s best-known real estate research firms. 

Rafer Johnson is an athletic champion who is driven to improve the lives of those less fortunate.  A record-holder in what is often considered the Olympics’ most grueling competition, the decathlon, Johnson won silver in 1956 and gold in 1960.  Since then, he has been an active leader in dozens of community and youth oriented organizations.  Along with other volunteers, he founded the California Special Olympics, which provides sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. 

Dr. Gordon Sato’s scientific knowledge and humanitarian instincts are alleviating some of the world’s most devastating problems including poverty, hunger, environmental pollution, and global warming.  An eminent scientist and the author of more than 200 publications, Sato is spending his “retirement” developing a model program for low-tech, sustainable economy in Eritrea, Africa.  His Manzanar Project – named for the camp where his family was interned during World War II - harnesses abundant natural resources to grow mangrove plants that can be used to feed animals and create a habitat for fish.

Founded by Quakers in 1887, Whittier College is an independent, four-year college offering a traditional liberal arts program integrated with both professional and pre-professional courses of study. With an emphasis on diversity, community, and curricular innovation, the College’s primary mission is to endow students with the education, skills, and values appropriate for global leadership and service. 

Whittier Law School, which is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools, is located on a separate campus in Orange County.


Whittier College Office of Communications
13406 Philadelphia » P.O. Box 634 » Whittier, CA 90608-0634
Tel: (562) 907-4213 » Fax: (562) 907-4927