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National educational leader to speak at Chavez banquet

March 21, 2008

KALAMAZOO--Southwest Michigan will celebrate the life and work of civil rights leader Cesar E. Chavez with a dinner program at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 29, in the Fetzer Center on the Western Michigan University campus.

The banquet costs $40, and reservations are required by Monday, March 24. The 2008 theme is "Celebrating the Legacy of Cesar E. Chavez."

Dr. Antonio R. Flores, president of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and a WMU alumnus, will be the keynote speaker. Flores will address the Chavez legacy as it relates to Hispanics and education.

This is the second year that WMU's Division of Multicultural Affairs has teamed with the Southwest Michigan Cesar Chavez Day Committee to sponsor a banquet on or around the birthday of Chavez, which is officially celebrated in Michigan on March 31.

Chavez was a leader for more than 30 years in the nonviolent struggle to improve civil rights and working conditions for migrant farm laborers and co-founded what is now the United Farm Workers of America, the nation's first successful farm workers union. He was born March 31, 1927, near Yuma, Ariz., and died April 23, 1993.

The 2008 Chavez banquet will include remarks by a representative from the office of Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm as well as other state and local dignitaries, and announcement of this year's Tri-Community Award winner--a resident of South Haven, Mich.

The Tri-Community Award is presented by the Southwest Michigan Cesar Chavez Day Committee and named in honor of Chavez, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. It recognizes individuals in Southwest Michigan who make an outstanding contribution to bringing together all segments of the regional community.

Preceding the banquet at 6:30 p.m., there will be a reception and exhibit featuring artist Eva Martinez of Grand Rapids, Mich. Several students from the Van Buren County Intermediate School District also will be in attendance, with their artwork displayed during the banquet.

Flores became the third president and chief executive officer of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities in 1996. During his tenure, he has overseen a near-tripling of HACU's membership and budget, and more than $1 billion in public and private funds has been allocated to Hispanic-serving institutions.

HACU represents more than 450 colleges and universities that collectively serve about two-thirds of the more than two million Hispanic students in U.S. higher education. The association's membership also includes 45 overseas institutions that stretch from South America to Spain and affiliate domestic institutions that serve K-12 school districts with significant Hispanic enrollments.

Prior to joining HACU, Flores was director of programs and services for the Michigan Higher Education Assistance Authority and the Michigan Higher Education Student Loan Authority. He serves as chairman of the Adelante! Leadership and Scholarship Fund board and is past chairman of the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility board.

Flores has received numerous honors, including being lauded by two former Michigan governors and the Michigan legislature for outstanding contributions to the state's educational system and winning Hispanic Business Magazine's 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award as well as WMU's 2003 Distinguished Alumni Award.

He earned a doctoral degree in higher education administration from the University of Michigan, a master's degree in counseling and personnel from WMU, and bachelor's degrees in business administration and elementary education from Universidad de Guadalajara and Centro Normal Regional, Mexico, respectively.

To register for the 2008 Chavez banquet, call (269) 674-8091, ext. 506. For more information, contact WMU's Miguel Ramirez at miguel.ramirez@wmich.edu or (269) 387-3329.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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