Latino legal scholar remembered for advancing equity in education, law


A Latino law professor is remaining remembered for his seminal function advancing civil schooling and immigration rights, as very well as pushing for more diversity in the authorized profession and in legislation colleges across the nation.

Michael Olivas, who retired as the William B. Bates distinguished chair of legislation and director of the Institute for Greater Education Regulation and Governance at the College of Houston Legislation Center, died on April 21 at the age of 71 adhering to difficulties from a blood clot.

Colleagues and legal scholars from close to the nation pointed to his trailblazing perform and his legacy in advance of a funeral mass and memorial Saturday in his hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico — the place he returned soon after his retirement.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who transpired to be a near good friend of Olivas, gave a eulogy Saturday.

“He individually touched so lots of life. Not just listed here, but all all over the globe, which include mine,” Grisham said. “He was a deeply highly regarded scholar, a devoted educator, an insightful mentor and, of course, a beloved spouse and spouse and children member.”

Olivas remaining driving a prolific physique of operate preserved in award-winning guides and quite a few articles. He was the recipient of prestigious awards, which includes the Association of American Regulation School’s Triennial Award, the best honor a law professor can receive, and the University of Houston’s Esther Farfel Award.

“As someone who was as soon as a youthful Hispanic legislation college student, I am specially touched by tales of his commitment to the issues of younger pupils of colour,” Lujan Grisham stated. “What an outstanding job design he will have to have been to learn from and be motivated by.”

Houston attorney and previous Hispanic Nationwide Bar Affiliation president Benny Agosto reported Olivas “set an case in point that irrespective of your qualifications, excellence in your do the job is anticipated and required.”

“Professor Olivas was a correct hero for a whole lot of us, as he was for lots of several years the only Latino law professor in Houston,” Agosto stated. “Others have come and absent, but he was there as an establishment.”

Aside from his scholarship, Olivas was warmly remembered as a mentor to students, professors and deans.

“So lots of persons in his subject, they appeared up to him for direction,” explained Sandra Guerra Thompson, Newell H. Blakely professor of law at the University of Houston’s Regulation Center and a colleague and friend of Olivas.

Guerra Thompson recalled how Olivas pushed regulation faculties to raise their Latino school immediately after likely through registries expecting to uncover Hispanic law professors but then viewing “there was just no person out there,” as Olivas had informed in 2001.

Number of Hispanic legislation professors ended up actively training back then, prompting Olivas, with the guidance of the Hispanic Nationwide Bar Affiliation, to start the yearly “Dirty Dozen Listing” pointing out 12 law educational facilities all over the U.S. that didn’t use a single Hispanic law professor.

Even though he took some heat from the qualified educational facilities, his endeavours led to the sizeable development and employing of Hispanic law professors at the establishments, according to Thompson.

“We owe him for this appropriate. This was his vision and his exertion and him having the heat — that created that probable,” Thompson stated.

Olivas helped progress and diversify institutions by achieving out to proficient legal professionals and then teaching several to grow to be legal counsel at universities or other entities.

Shaping plan

His perform assisted shape point out and countrywide guidelines on quite a few concerns, together with schooling and immigration legal rights.

Olivas served various terms as a board member of the Mexican American Lawful Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). Thomas Saenz, the organization’s president and common counsel, said Olivas was pivotal in advancing challenges with regards to immigrant youth, which includes addressing challenges Deferred Motion for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients confronted in getting increased education.

“His endeavours to accumulate and disseminate info and information about how these concerns were currently being resolved nationwide were definitely of incalculable gain to the broader nationwide community,” Saenz stated.

Saenz mentioned that point out policies that arrived about from Olivas’ perform had been in a position to be replicated nationally.

In his spare time, Olivas cultivated a passion for rock ‘n’ roll that inevitably grew into a radio clearly show. Right after he retired from the College of Houston soon after practically 4 many years, he became recognized as the “rock ‘n’ roll legislation professor” and would discuss lawful issues affecting the new music industry on the airwaves of New Mexico’s Albuquerque Public Radio (KANW).

Saenz stated the greatest way to honor Olivas is by ensuring greater representation of Latinos in the lawful profession — more professors, attorneys and also much more Latino judges.

His perform, Saenz mentioned, “was about making certain inclusion for the increasing Latino community in all factors of American daily life.”

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Nicole Acevedo contributed.


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