Luis Alvarez, a civil rights activist, educator and campaign fund-raiser who opened doors and created educational opportunities in the public and nonprofit sectors, which would not have been obtainable to people of color and women without his political courage, died on September 12 in Manhattan.
His death follows a lengthy illness, his wife, Judith Alvarez, said.
Mr. Alvarez served as president of National Urban Fellows (NUF), from 1976 until 2002, then from 2004 until 2007. The organization offers the country’s single most distinguished mid-career leadership development programs for professionals who are committed to a life in public service with a strong commitment to social justice and equity.
“His activism opened closed doors and created educational opportunities that never would have been available to hundreds of people of color and women, without his political courage. Luis Alvarez built and helped to build institutions and organizations that survive to this day, and that continue to serve the greater underrepresented communities,” said Dr. David Rivers, chairman of the NUF board of directors.
Now in its 50th year, National Urban Fellows has trained over 1,750 individuals who serve in leadership and management positions throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. During his presidency, Alvarez expanded the original program to include three fellowships: the National Rural Fellows, founded in 1979; the Corporate Executive Fellows, established in 1983; and the Environmental Science & Management Fellows, launched in 1990.
At NUF, Alvarez not only created strategic programs, but he also expanded the organization, developed new partnerships, and significantly increased the organization’s national visibility and reputation while increasing corporate support and ensuring its financial stability. Upon his
retirement from NUF, he was appointed president emeritus in perpetuity of NUF and remained an active member of the NUF board as special counsel to the chair.
Alvarez is a graduate of the National Urban Fellows, class of 1972, completing his fellowship at Yale University at the U.S. Department of Education with Don Davis, professor of education emeritus, and at Boston University.
Dr. Tony Allen, chairman emeritus of NUF and Provost and Executive Vice President of Delaware State University, in paying tribute to Luis said, “For me, Luis Alvarez was the National Urban Fellows, an unapologetic, courageous professional of color who built a movement that helped change the face of the public sector in America. His legacy is as relevant today as it was when he himself became a fellow and then went on to lead this wonderful organization of ours into the 21st century. He was a man for all seasons and his legacy will forever endure. . .”
Before joining National Urban Fellows, Alvarez was the director of development for ASPIRA of New York. He later became the chief executive officer of ASPIRA of America, from 1972 until 1975. Under his guidance, ASPIRA of America prospered, playing a significant role in expanding and strengthening educational opportunities for Hispanic children, which culminated in the famous legal decision ASPIRA Consent Decree vs. the Board of Education of New York City.
“For over thirty-years I have had the pleasure of calling Luis Alvarez a leader, a teacher, a mentor and most importantly my best friend,” said Miguel Garcia, President and CEO of National Urban Fellows. “During those years I’ve also had the privilege of watching a highly intelligent, courageous warrior; a man of integrity, honesty, faith and fairness, establish the country’s premier leadership development organization, increasing the organization’s national visibility and reputation, while working to ensure diversity in public service leadership in communities across the nation. Although I will miss him dearly, I know that Luis will continue to contribute to every act, thought and decision I make. I will forever hold close the truths and lessons I’ve learned from him.”
As special assistant to the U.S. commissioner of education in 1971, Alvarez was engaged in the formulation of U.S. educational policies and assured their implementation across the United States, Puerto Rico and Guam. In addition, he helped implement significant educational legislation for the U.S. Department of Education including the Bilingual Education Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended, and the Career Education and Education Renewal Act.
Alvarez served as a member of the U.S. Official Delegation at the Panama Canal Transfer, as well as a member of the Hispanic Leaders Delegation to Israel. He has led delegations to Great
Britain and was an advisor to Atlantic Fellows and the founder and former treasurer of the City Fellows program. Both fellowships are affiliated with Great Britain.
Alvarez served on the boards of many national and local organizations, including the Points of Light foundation and the United Hospital Fund, and as a chairman on the board of directors of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense & Education Fund, the National Community for Latino Leadership, the Latino Fund of Tristate, and the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center. He was the founder and chairman of the National Puerto Rican Coalition and was a former trustee for Children’s Television Workshop and channel Thirteen/WNET. Alvarez served as a member of the Council on Foundations and Council of Associates and on the advisory board of the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico.
Alvarez was the recipient of countless awards and recognitions. He was a member of the Aspen Institute Society of Fellows; he received the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award, the National Hispanic Hero Award, the Mid-West Voter Registration & Education Project Award, the Hispanic Champion Award, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Award and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Recognition Award.
Mr. Alvarez was born on April 1, 1935, to Claudio and Irene Alvarez-Mendoza of New York, New York. He is survived by his wife of many years, Judith; two children, Louis and Janet Alvarez; and three grandchildren, all of New York City.
A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, November 17, 2018, 1:00 PM at The Riverside Church, 490 Riverside Drive at 120th Street, New York, NY 10027-5714. The family requests that memorial contributions in Luis’ name be made to the National Urban Fellows at nuf.org, or to a charity of your choice.