It is with great sorrow that we announce that Luis Alvarez, who championed ASPIRA all of his life and dedicated years to the organization since starting at ASPIRA of New York in 1967, passed away peacefully in New York City last week.
Luis started at ASPIRA of New York, operating programs. When Louis Nunez moved to the newly formed ASPIRA of America in 1968 to become its first National Executive Director, Luis followed to serve as Assistant Director. During the next few years, Luis Alvarez and Louis Nuñez, both mentored by Dr. Antonia Pantoja, were instrumental in organizing the largest national expansion of ASPIRA, developing what were then called affiliates across the country: ASPIRA of Illinois, ASPIRA of New Jersey, ASPIRA of Pennsylvania and, months later, ASPIRA de Puerto Rico. According to Louis Nunez, these were difficult times for ASPIRA of America, which later became the ASPIRA Association. ASPIRA of America was just establishing itself as a new national organization and at the same time it was organizing new affiliates in Puerto Rican communities that had unique environments and needs, very different from those of New York and each other. They needed to help build the organizations -establish boards, implement programs, raise funds- and secure local community support. But the most difficult part was to develop programs at the new affiliates that were consistent with the ASPIRA model despite the differences between these communities. During the first few years of the expansion, Luis became the consummate fundraiser, which he would do so successfully for the rest of his life.
According to Dr. Maria Canino, Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University, ”Luis’ passion was the community. He was part of the 1970’s generation of builders and battlers, including the fight for bilingual education, and making Sesame Street responsive to Puerto Rican’s and Latinos, among many others”
After leaving ASPIRA he joined the National Urban Fellows, Inc. (NUF) what has become the premier national minority leadership development organization promoting excellence public service. He was President of NUF until 2002, and returned as President in 2004 until his retirement in 2007. At NUF, Luis expanded the organization, developed new partnerships, and significantly increased the organization’s national visibility and reputation. He also increased corporate support for the organization, ensuring its financial stability. Upon his retirement from the NUF, he was appointed President Emeritus in perpetuity of the NUF and remained an active member of the NUF Board as Special Counsel to the Chair.
Dr. Tony Allen, former executive of Bank of America, at the tribute to Luis said: “What Luis created was more than a leadership development program, he developed an opportunity for courageous professionals to strive and impact change in the communities they serve. He built a movement, one that is as relevant today as it was in 1969 and continues to change the face and culture of public service leadership in the United States. That is the legacy of Luis Alvarez”.
Luis’ commitment to ASPIRA and to Puerto Rico was unwavering. He served on the Board of ASPIRA of America and on the board of the Puerto Rico Conservation Fund. He also served on the boards of the National Community for Latino Leadership, the Latino Tri-State Fund, and Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center. He received numerous awards, including the Whitney M. Young Jr. award, the National Hispanic Hero, the Mid-West Voter Registration and Education Project award, the Hispanic Champion, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency award and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Recognition Award.
Mr. Alvarez’s intellectual capacity and genuine leadership were characteristics admired by his peers. He had the ability to solve conflicts and break tensions in discussion spaces where diverse topics were analyzed: he was a born conciliator. Grizel Ubarry, former Executive Director of ASPIRA of NJ, described him as “a very charismatic leader. He often made people laugh and think at the same time. He was generous as a person and as a professional. He was able to find, see and empower the positive aspects of each person he knew. He was and will be known and recognized as an excellent mentor, a compassionate, dedicated, exemplary educator. Alvarez was a proud lover of life; he was simply an agent of change, an active transformer of society. Luis was a man who made dreams and taught others to get them.”
In his later years, Luis Alvarez became an active volunteer at ASPIRA of New York in fundraising and in organizing ASPIRA of New York’s 50th Anniversary celebration. He later joined the board of ASPIRA Association, the successor to ASPIRA of America, serving two full terms with distinction.
“Luis was just an extraordinary human being. He was a bright, strong, energetic and committed leader who mentored a generation of young Latinos who have become leaders on our communities. His passion for his community and for developing the next generation of leaders was unmatched. He was the embodiment of the Aspirante and ASPIRA and our youth were always very close to his heart. I am grateful to have met Luis, to have worked with him over many years, and to have learned so much from him. Everyone in ASPIRA and in our communities owe him a great debt. I will certainly do. I will miss him.” said Ronald Blackburn-Moreno, President of the ASPIRA Association.
The entire ASPIRA family extends its condolences to his wife of many years, Judy, and to his family.
A Celebration of the Life of Luis Alvarez
Saturday, November 17, 2018
490 Riverside Dr.
New York, New York 10027