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June 7 , 2007
DH 07 JH

Former Mayor of Carson and Chicano Educator/Activist Awarded Honorary Degrees at CSU Dominguez Hills Commencement

Carson, CA – In recognition of their many achievements and lifelong public service, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, Dominguez Hills conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters on former mayor of Carson Gilbert D. Smith and educator/activist Abel Amaya.

Smith was a key leader in the establishment of the city of Carson. Following the city’s incorporation in 1968, Mr. Smith served as one of the first Carson City Council members and then as mayor from 1970-1971 and again from 1974-1975. Believing that a university within the newly incorporated city would benefit the local and surrounding community while raising the city’s profile, Smith played a leadership role in the campaign to bring California State University, Dominguez Hills to its present site, and has supported a partnership between the university and the city of Carson ever since.

In 2006, Smith and his wife, Shirley, who has made her own stamp on the city as president of Women and Philanthropy, established a scholarship at Cal State Dominguez Hills to help students in the College of Education and the College of Business Administration and Public Policy reach their educational goals. Smith also has served the university as a former chair and lifetime member of the President’s Advisory Board and as a member of the Advisory Board for the College of Education.

Smith has served on many policy-making boards and committees in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, including the Governor’s Emergency Council and Housing Task Force, L.A. County and Cities Emergency Preparedness Commission, Southern California Association of Governments, and the American Red Cross L.A. Chapter. He was the first chair for the State Departmental Transportation Advisory Committee for Caltrans and served as director of Government and Public Affairs for the Southern California Association of Governments. From 1978 to 1996, his work with this organization helped to expand governmental, community and corporate participation in Southern California regional planning.

During his 35-year teaching career, Amaya has taught and developed Chicana/o studies curriculum at several universities, including the University of Southern California, Pitzer and Pomona College, and Colorado State University, where he was director of the Chicano studies program. He has also taught at the Dominguez Hills, Fullerton and Los Angeles campuses of the California State University system.

Throughout his career, Amaya made it a priority to integrate barrio students into university life. While at USC, Amaya served as director of El Centro Chicano from 1979 to 1999. This student organization held the mission of recruiting, retaining, and providing professional development to Chicano/Latino students. El Centro Chicano continues to focus on managing student support programs that included seminars in leadership and motivational skills for first year students, as well as encouraging the strength and vision of parents, community and business representatives who impact the success of Chicano/Latino students.

On the Dominguez Hills campus, Amaya helped to establish the first Dolores Huerta Chicana/o Latina/o Graduation Celebration in 2005, a bilingual celebration for graduates to share their academic success and accomplishments with their family and friends. After retiring from USC in 1999, Amaya continues to teach part-time at Pitzer College, Pomona College, CSU Fullerton and CSU Dominguez Hills.

Dominguez Hills - University Communications & Public Affairs
Contact: Brenda Knepper
1000 E. Victoria Street

Carson, CA 90747
(310) 243-2001















Media Contacts:
Joanie Harmon
(310) 243-2740


Amy Bentley Smith

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California State University, Dominguez Hills • 1000 E. Victoria Street • Carson, California 90747 • (310) 243-3696
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Last updated June 7, 2007, 12:29 p.m.
by Joanie Harmon-Whetmore