Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel for (MALDEF) Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, will receive an honorary doctorate during the 2017 Commencement at California State University, Los Angeles.
Saenz is a distinguished civil rights attorney and longtime champion for diversity and social justice. He has been a leading advocate for Latino and immigrant communities and has strived to ensure educational opportunities for all Americans.
He will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters and be the keynote speaker on Saturday, May 20, during the College of Natural and Social Sciences Commencement ceremony. The Board of Trustees of the California State University and Cal State LA will confer the honorary doctorate in recognition of Saenz's contributions to social justice, and his role as an advocate for educational opportunity.
"Thomas Saenz embodies Cal State LA's mission of engagement, service, and the public good," University President William A. Covino said. "We are pleased and proud to confer upon him a Doctor of Humane Letters."
Saenz attended public schools in neighborhoods served by Cal State LA, and he graduated summa cum laude from Yale University. He earned a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School.
He was a leader in the successful legal challenge to California's divisive Proposition 187, which sought to deny public benefits to undocumented immigrants but was ruled unconstitutional. Saenz also served as MALDEF's lead counsel in two court challenges to California's Proposition 227, an English-only education initiative. He has litigated numerous other civil rights cases in the areas of immigrants' rights, education, employment and voting rights.
Saenz was selected as one of Hispanic Business Magazine's "100 Top Influentials." He received the Professional Achievement Award from the Mexican American Bar Foundation, and the National Hispanic Bar Association presented him with the Ohtli Award, which recognized his public service on behalf of Mexican American communities.