During his tenure at Cal Poly Pomona, President Emeritus Michael Ortiz championed diversity in education.
In recognition of his achievements, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) recently honored Ortiz by inducting him into the organization’s Hall of Champions.
Ortiz received the recognition at HACU’s annual conference Oct. 6-8 in Atlanta.
“I was very moved and pleased,” Ortiz said of being notified of the honor. “I am quite humbled.”
HACU has recognized Ortiz previously, presenting him with the Award of Excellence in 2014 for his outstanding service to Hispanics and higher education success.
During his more than 11 years at Cal Poly Pomona, Ortiz supported several efforts that helped bolster the number of Latino students on campus. One of the programs he championed was the Parent Involvement for Quality Education or PIQE, which worked with low-income parents to help them become teachers of their children and get them to go to college.
Ortiz also established the university’s first counseling post designated for undocumented students to help them successfully navigate the university.
He endorsed Maximizing Engineering Potential, a program on campus that focuses on retention and academic enhancement for historical under-represented students. Ortiz also helped the CSU Chancellor’s Office to expand Latino and Asian-American Pacific Islander Initiatives systemwide, and worked on a national level as co-chair of the HACU-USDA Collaborative to establish a federal designation for Hispanic-Serving AG Colleges and Universities that came with grant-funding opportunities.
“This is truly a fitting honor for Mike, who has spent his career promoting and personifying the values of HACU,” said Cal Poly Pomona President Soraya M. Coley. “Student access and student success were the hallmarks of his time at Cal Poly Pomona. His tenure was a time of tremendous growth, both in terms of enrollment and expanding educational opportunities for our students. His vision and leadership forever changed this university for the better.”
Ortiz and his wife, former First Lady Betty Ortiz, saw the transformation of the campus during his tenure, as demographics shifted and more Latino students began enrolling at Cal Poly Pomona. Witnessing the growth gave him great pride as a Latino, he said.
“When I look back at my own history and the things I went through and my family went through…I felt it was exciting to have this diversity on our campus,” he said. “Strength of diversity is looking at things from different perspectives. Doing that was important for the university.”
Ortiz, a New Mexico native, was a first-generation college student. He credits his older brother Gilbert, who graduated from high school at 15 and was the first in the family to attend college, with laying the educational foundation for Ortiz and his siblings.
“I was also lucky to have mentors all along the way – people like John Welty, who was the president at Fresno State and the late Ben Brooks, who was the special education department chair at Appalachian State University when I was there,” he said. “It was something that made a lot of difference in my life.”