Antonia Hernández

Honorary Degrees


California State University, Los Angeles​

Antonia Hernández is a distinguished civil rights attorney, immigration advocate and community and philanthropic leader. For more than four decades, she has devoted her professional life to working on behalf of underserved communities in Los Angeles and across the state and the nation. Ms. Hernández embodies California State University, Los Angeles’ mission of engagement, service and the public good, going back to the earliest days of her storied career.

After emigrating with her family from Mexico at age eight, she grew up in East Los Angeles, attended local public schools and graduated from Garfield High School, a few miles from Cal State LA. Ms. Hernández earned a Bachelor of Arts in history and Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, and started her legal career as a staff attorney with the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice. She then moved to Washington, D.C., to serve as counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary; she was the first Latina to hold that position.

In Washington, Ms. Hernández joined the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the nation’s foremost Latino civil rights organization. For 18 years she headed MALDEF as its president and general counsel, leading its efforts to apply the legal system, community education, and research and policy initiatives to protecting the rights of Latinos in the United States.

Ms. Hernández has since gone on to serve as president and chief executive officer for the California Community Foundation. The foundation is one of Southern California’s largest philanthropies. It has provided crucial capital to signature community ventures, including Self Help Graphics & Art in East Los Angeles and health providers such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital. During Ms. Hernández’s 15-year tenure, the foundation has granted nearly $2 billion to programs in health, housing, education and immigration.

In recognition of her distinguished career, her contributions to social justice and her devotion to improving the lives of all Angelenos, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, Los Angeles are proud to confer upon Ms. Antonia Hernández the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.