The U.S. Postal Service has honored distinguished Cal State LA alumnus Jaime Escalante with a Forever Stamp. Escalante, who taught calculus at Garfield High School and inspired students for 17 years, was immortalized in the critically acclaimed 1998 film Stand and Deliver. Escalante passed away in 2010 after battling cancer. He was 79.
The U.S. Postal Service dedicated the stamp at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. last week during the 87th annual convention of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Digitally illustrated, the stamp features Escalante in his signature flat cap in front of a chalkboard covered with calculus symbols.
Escalante was a teacher in his native Bolivia and mopped floors and flipped burgers to make ends meet after coming to Los Angeles. He attended Cal State LA, earning a B.A. in math in 1973 and a teaching credential in 1977. In 1990, Escalante received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University.
"We are grateful that the U.S. Postal Service has paid tribute to Jaime Escalante with a Forever Stamp. His distinguished career represents the very best that our alumni have to offer as they work to transform the quality of life in the communities we serve," Cal State LA President William A. Covino said.
Escalante gained national acclaim in 1982 when 14 of his students who had passed the advanced placement calculus exam were accused of cheating by the testing service. Escalante said the service had leveled the allegations because his students were Mexican Americans from East Los Angeles. The testing service denied the accusation and proposed that the students retake the exam. They did, and they passed.
The story was covered in the news media and led to the production of Stand and Deliver. In the film, Escalante was portrayed by another Cal State LA alumnus: Edward James Olmos.
"Jaime Escalante created an awareness and understanding that students would rise to the level of expectation," Olmos said. "He was the biggest role model I've ever known and represented integrity and dignity."
Olmos attended the Washington, D.C. ceremony, along with U.S. Postal Service officials, members of Escalante's family and U.S. Secretary of Education John King Jr. A dedication ceremony was also held on July 16 at Garfield High School.
"Jaime Escalante accomplished far more than just teaching calculus. He changed lives," Cal State LA Vice President Jose A. Gomez said. "He taught our youth that they can excel through determination and preparation."