Heartfelt congratulations to my colleague, Cruz Reynoso, recipient of the American Bar Association's 2007 Robert J. Kutak Award, in recognition of his life's work as a lawyer, judge, and professor.
Those who spoke at yesterday's ceremony in San Francisco sketched an outline of Cruz's life: Growing up as 1 of 11 children in then-rural Orange County, California, where, as a child of Latino heritage, he attended segregated public schools. Rejecting those who said he was foolish to think he might one day go to college. Earning a bachelor's from Pomona College and a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Hanging out a shingle in El Centro. Becoming director of the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, and then a law professor at the University of New Mexico. Returning to California to join the bench. Eventually serving, from 1982-1987, as an Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court, the Latino to hold that position. Vice Chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, U.S. delegate to the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in 2000 (above).
It's a truncated list of achievements, and yet it does not include what I've found most significant in the 6 years that Cruz, just retired this year as a chaired law professor at University of California-Davis, has been my colleague. He's a gentleman, in the best sense of the word -- a person of understatement and empathy, a mentor to his students, a friend to his colleagues. ¡Felicitaciones, Cruz, y muchisimas gracias!