Whittier College News Release
Mexican-American Community Leader
Martin Ortiz, director of Whittier College’s Center of Mexican American Affairs, will retire Aug. 31, after more than 40 years at the college, according to an announcement by College President Katherine Haley Will.
In recognition of Ortiz’s distinguished and dedicated career at the college, he will hold the title Director Emeritus, and he has agreed to serve as a consultant to the college, Will said.
“As the founding director of Whittier College’s Center of Mexican American Affairs, Martin has guided the college experiences of thousands of students, many of them the first in their families to attend college,” said Will. “His work contributed significantly to making Whittier College one of the most diverse liberal arts colleges in the country. Martin’s 40-plus years of leadership in diversity issues have shaped the ethos of Whittier College in significant ways. He is a living reminder of the ideals of the Quakers who founded the college and who strove always to foster respect and equality for all people.”
Ortiz began his studies at Whittier College after active duty with the United States Marine Corps. During World War II, he was stationed in the South Pacific for a year-and-a-half, working as an aerologist and language specialist. While in college, he worked for the East Los Angeles YMCA as a youth director.
After Ortiz graduated from Whittier in 1948, he began graduate studies at George Williams College (now Aurora University) and earned his M.S. in 1950. (In 1999, Ortiz received the Distinguished Graduate Alumnus Award from that institution.)
Ortiz’s professional career at Whittier College began when he was hired to teach part-time in the sociology department. In 1968, at the request of then-President Paul Smith, Ortiz founded the Center of Mexican American Affairs to provide support for Mexican-American and other Hispanic students. He later created Alianza de los Amigos, the college’s Hispanic alumni association, and he has raised thousands of dollars for scholarships through that organization’s annual banquet.
Throughout his career, Ortiz has served as a consultant or advisor to many other organizations. In 1973, he was selected by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Public Health to advise and consult in the areas of drug abuse and narcotic addiction treatment and rehabilitation. He has consulted with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on a variety of projects, and he served as a hearing examiner for the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners.
Ortiz has also published and presented papers and workshops on cultural diversity, education and community development, including a presentation at the annual meeting of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, a workshop sponsored by the California Department of Education and the Los Angeles Unified School District, and a conference sponsored by the Foundation for Independent Higher Education.
Ortiz serves with many community and professional associations, including the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, the Task Force on Improving Community Relations, California Council of Criminal Justice, and the National Hispanic Task Force, Social Security Administration.
He has received many honors for his work, including recognition from the California Legislature for his dedication to the students and the community served by Whittier College. He also received the Recognition Award from the Personnel Management Association of Aztlan, National Board, for his promotion of employment opportunities for minority youth, and a Distinguished Service Award from the U.S. Department of Education. The college’s Alianza de los Amigos elected him to its Hall of Fame, and a $1.5 million endowed scholarship has been established at Whittier in his honor.
Located 18 miles east of Los Angeles, Whittier College is an independent, four-year college offering traditional liberal arts majors and strong pre-professional programs taught in the context of the liberal arts. 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 Costa Mesa.
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