Each year CHCI presents its Highest Honors at its Annual Awards Gala in Washington, D.C. during Hispanic Heritage Month. CHCI is honored to award José Díaz-Balart and Eliseo Medina with the 2014 Medallion of Excellence Awards.
José Díaz-Balart is one of the most respected and experienced voices in U.S. Hispanic journalism. He is the News Anchor of “Noticiero Telemundo” and the Host of “Enfoque con José Díaz-Balart,” Telemundo’s Spanish-language current-affairs program. In May of 2014, Díaz-Balart was tapped by MSNBC to host its 10 a.m. hour from Miami.
Díaz-Balart started his career in 1984 and since then has witnessed and reported history first-hand for trusted media organizations including NBC News, CBS News and Telemundo. He is the first and only U.S. journalist to have anchored both English and Spanish-language newscasts on two national networks for more than one week.
His work has been recognized with numerous accolades including two Emmy® Awards, a George Foster Peabody Award and an Alfred I DuPont-Columbia University Award. In 2012, Diaz-Balart was honored by two leading television industry publications, Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News, as the recipient of their time-honored award for Outstanding Achievement in Hispanic Television. Most recently, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Hispanic Federation
José Díaz-Balart has a deep sense of civic service and has spent thousands of hours volunteering during his career. His philanthropic endeavors focus greatly on education and the betterment of US Hispanics. For years, José Díaz-Balart has worked with key organizations, including: the ASPEN Institute, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Education for a Better America, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Museum of Science and Industry of Tampa, the National Council of La Raza, the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Women of Tomorrow, among others. He also is an Education Champion for NBCUniversal Hispanic Enterprises and Content’s new nationwide pro-social campaign, Aprender es Triunfar, aimed at closing the Latino student achievement gap, especially in STEM education.
Díaz-Balart graduated from New College in Sarasota, Florida.
Eliseo Medina is described by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the most successful labor organizers in the country” and was named one of the “Top 50 Most Powerful Latino Leaders” in Poder Magazine. In 2013, he was one of the leaders of the Fast for Families movement where he fasted for 22 days on the National Mall in support of immigration reform. As the International Secretary-Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Medina led the union’s efforts to achieve comprehensive immigration reform that rebuilds the nation’s economy, secures equal labor and civil-rights protections for workers to improve their wages and work conditions and provides legal channels and a path to citizenship. Medina’s work to help grow Latino voting strength in the 2012 elections is widely recognized as a key factor in propelling the 2013 debate in Congress over commonsense immigration reform.
Called a “quietly charismatic” leader “who is helping immigrant workers win union representation and make their voice heard in the political arena” by the Sacramento Bee, the issue of immigration reform is very personal to Medina. When he was 10-years-old, he came to the United States from Mexico with his mother and siblings to join their father, who was an immigrant farm worker.
Medina’s career as a labor activist began in 1965 when, as a 19-year-old grape-picker, he participated in the historic United Farm Workers’ strike in Delano, CA. Over the next 13 years, Medina worked alongside labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez and honed his skills as a union organizer and political strategist; eventually rising through the ranks to serve as the United Farm Workers’ national vice president.
His interests in strategic organizing brought him to SEIU in 1986, where he helped revive a local union in San Diego–building its membership from 1,700 to over 10,000 in five years. In 1996, Medina was elected to serve as international executive vice president of SEIU. He made history by becoming the first Mexican American elected to a top post at the 2.1 million-member SEIU. He retired in 2013 after more than 27 years of service, but plays an active role as the chair of SEIU’s Civil Participation & Immigration Initiative where he focuses on fighting for commonsense immigration reform.
Medina’s work to mobilize the Latino vote and working families everywhere to win immigration reform has launched him into the national limelight, having been quoted and televised in over a hundred interviews in the last year and a half. Medina lives in Southern California, he is married and the proud father of four children and one grandchild.
Juliet V. García, Ph.D. joined The University of Texas System as president of The University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB) in January 1992 after having served as president of Texas Southmost College (TSC) for six years. When she was named as president of the comprehensive community college in 1986, she became the first Mexican-American woman to become president of a college or university in the United States. She was the second president of UTB and the 12th president of TSC.
Dr. Garcia is a convener of important conversations. She has served on the transition teams of two Presidential administrations, was a member of The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, and chaired the Advisory Committee to Congress on Student Financial Assistance and the American Council of Education (ACE), the nation’s largest higher education association. She was selected as one of 12 US presidents to participate in the US AID and ACE South Africa Project, charged with helping integrate higher education in South Africa after the end of apartheid. And annually, for more than a decade, she has been invited to present to aspiring university presidents at the Harvard Graduate School Institute for Educational Management.
Among the many honors she has received for her work is recognition by Fortune magazine as one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders, the American Council on Education Lifetime Achievement Award, honorary doctorates from the University of Notre Dame and Brown University and the Mexican consulate’s Ohtli Award, the government’s highest recognition awarded to foreigners who have improved the lives of Mexicans living abroad. In 2009, Time magazine named her one of the Top 10 College Presidents in the U.S.
The history of her leadership chronicles more than two decades of innovation that propelled the development of post-secondary education in Deep South Texas and its international border region. Dr. García established a campus culture that continuously seeks innovative approaches to promote student success, with more than 35,000 degrees and certificates awarded during her tenure. Many of the university’s students are now competing on a global level. The chess program has qualified for three consecutive President’s Cup since its establishment less than a decade ago, and the US Chess Federation named UTB Chess College of the Year 2007, and Brownsville Chess City of the Year in 2014. The high achieving astro-physics program engages students in ground breaking research, and in 2012, UT Brownsville became one of the top 10 producers in the nation of Hispanic physics graduates.
The University of Texas Board of Regents recently named Dr. García the founding executive director of a new University of Texas Institute of the Americas. This Institute will develop the next generation of leaders and provide a nonpartisan venue for discussing global issues. The Institute will convene academics and experts to look for solutions on societal and policy issues and in education.
Dr. García was born in Brownsville, Texas, and has been married to Oscar E. García for 45 years. They are the proud parents of two grown children, Oscar D. García and Paulita Rico, and are blessed with four grandchildren.
For her significant contributions to the fields of higher education, and as an outstanding role model in the Latino community and the nation, Dr. Juliet García is awarded the 2014 CHCI Chair’s Medallion Award.
Click here to learn more about Dr. García’s outstanding achievements.
The CHCI Alumni Association (CHCI-AA) is proud to recognize long-time supporter and CHCI Board of Directors Member, Henry L. Fernández, Ed.D. as the recipient of the 2014 Medallion of Excellence for Distinguished Alumnus. This prestigious annual award recognizes a CHCI alumnus who has made an outstanding contribution to the Latino community and who has thereby achieved distinction. It is meant to highlight the impact of CHCI’s programs and the prominence of its alumni. As an alumnus of the CHCI 1987-88 Fellowship Program, Fernández credits the CHCI fellowship experience with exponentially advancing his professional and personal growth as an educator, community & civil rights advocate, and father. Fernández has played an integral role in the growth of CHCI and in the formation of its nearly 3,000 strong alumni network. Since 2009, he has served on CHCI’s Board of Directors, chairing the Programs and the Finance committees, and currently holding the position of CHCI Treasurer.
Dr. Fernández has more than 30 years of work experience in education. Arriving in the United States as an immigrant at the age of 9, Fernández was taught the value of an education by his father, who successfully relocated the family to a new country by working hard and holding a degree. Fernández has been employed at USA Funds for more than 10 years, serving as a senior grants officer, vice president for government relations, and executive director of the philanthropic department. He has managed millions of dollars in grants and scholarships that USA Funds invests annually in enhancing opportunities for more students to enter and complete college, has coordinated efforts that reach policymakers, and has interacted with stakeholder groups. Prior to joining USA Funds, Fernández was a program director for Lumina Foundation for Education. His experience also includes work in corporate philanthropy and service as director of the Peace Corps Fellows Program, as well as work as program administrator for New York’s Teachers College, Columbia University. Earlier in his career, he served as an elementary-school principal and teacher.
Fernández actively supports his community and professional organizations through his involvement. In his community, Fernández was a founding member and coordinator of the Indiana Latino Scholarship Fund, which has raised $2 million for academically gifted and indigent Hispanic Hoosiers, and currently serves on the board of the Central Indiana Community Foundation. In addition to the CHCI Board of Directors, he has served on a number of boards, including those for the NALEO Educational Fund, Grantmakers for Education, and Advocates for Youth, and also served for four years as an elected school-board member on the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township of Indiana. He is an Honorary Board member of Excelencia in Education, in Washington, D.C.
Fernández received a doctoral degree in education and three master’s degrees from Teachers College, Columbia University. He completed his undergraduate studies at Queens College of the City University of New York. He has been living in Indianapolis since 2002 with his partner of 20 years and their two children.
The Medallion of Excellence awards are presented to an individual who conducts himself or herself in an exemplary manner and who serves as a role model and standard-bearer for the Latino community, particularly Latino youth. The individual must have at least a 15-year record of contributions and accomplishments in his/her field with solid leadership and community involvement. The qualifying factor is philanthropic and civic engagement through the initiation or support of programs that benefit the Hispanic community as a whole.
The Chair’s Medallion Award is presented each year to an individual who has dedicated his or her public or private career to improving the lives of Hispanic Americans. The honoree is chosen wholly at the Chair’s discretion.
The Medallion of Excellence for a Distinguished Alumnus recognizes a CHCI alumnus who has made an outstanding contribution to the Latino Community and who has thereby achieved distinction. This prestigious annual award is meant to highlight the impact of CHCI’s programs and the prominence of its alumni. Those considered are judged on the full range of their professional accomplishments. Alumni must have graduated from the Fellowship program at least 15 years or the Internship program 20 years from the date of nomination.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), a nonprofit and nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization, provides leadership development programs and educational services to students and young emerging leaders. The CHCI Board of Directors is comprised of Hispanic members of Congress, nonprofit, union, and corporate leaders. CHCI does not attempt to influence legislation and does not employ or retain lobbyists.
The views or opinions of awardees, speakers, or guests throughout CHCI's Hispanic Heritage Month events do not reflect the views or policies of CHCI.
Learn more at www.chci.org.
Copyright 2015 Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Inc.