Whittier College News Release

For Immediate Release - August 11, 1998
Media Contact
Reference: 98/99: 3

Director of Whittier College's Center of Mexican American Affairs Will Receive Youth Empowerment Award
at August 25 Ceremony

Martin Ortiz, longtime director of Whittier College's Center of Mexican American Affairs, will receive the Mobil/Youth Empowerment Award at the eighth annual Hispanic Achievement Awards ceremony, to be held Tuesday, August 25, at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. The Hispanic Achievement Awards are presented by Hispanic Magazine

The Hispanic Achievement Awards honor Hispanic Americans who have made significant contributions in their fields of endeavor, as well as a positive impact on the Hispanic community.

Ortiz, a 1948 graduate of Whittier College, has directed the college's Center of Mexican American Affairs since 1971. More than 30 percent of Whittier's student body is Latino--one of the highest percentages among the 72-member Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities--and Ortiz has helped thousands of Whittier students find scholarships, internships and jobs after graduation.

Born and raised in Wichita, Kansas, Ortiz dropped out of school at the age of 13 and rode the rails as a hobo (he's still a member of the Hobo Association of America) before returning to high school at 16. After serving with the Marines in World War II, he came to Whittier to earn a sociology degree, and was the college's only Latino graduate in 1948.

Known as "El Jefe" ("The Chief") to scores of Whittier students and their parents, Ortiz describes his mission at the college as "opening doors." "I was the first in my family to graduate from college," he says. "My father never went to any school, not even for one day. He was at Whittier for my graduation, and when I walked past him to get my diploma, he was in tears. I am committed to getting kids into college and keeping them there. I tell parents that college is the future, and their children belong in it."

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 the Association of American Law Schools, is located on a separate campus in Costa Mesa.

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