Sonoma

A deep compassion and commitment to aiding underserved Spanish-speaking communities is the hallmark of George L. Ortiz’s long and distinguished career. From his first job after college as a social worker to later forming a grassroots alliance and non-profit social service agency, the efforts of Mr. Ortiz and his allies have made a lasting difference in the lives of thousands. The organization they founded, now called the California Human Development Corporation in Santa Rosa, creates job training, housing, recovery and other services for farmworkers, day laborers and people with disabilities, serving 25,000 people in 31 Northern California counties. Mr. Ortiz served as its president and CEO for many years. Mr. Ortiz grew up in East Los Angeles and his athletic prowess earned him a track scholarship to California State University, Fresno. He earned a bachelor’s degree in social science and served in the U.S. Army in Germany in 1957-58. He first began his professional career as a social worker, doing outreach to farmworkers in Sonoma County, and soon became a bridge between county social service offices and the growing Spanish-speaking Latino community.

Working with farmworkers and other underserved Latinos, Mr. Ortiz began conducting citizenship and English classes. With his colleagues, Mr. Ortiz founded Latinos Unidos of Sonoma County, a non-profit group that granted college scholarships, advocated for low-income, working families and served other needs in the immigrant community.

In addition to decades of professional service, Mr. Ortiz is devoted to community service. His community activities include finance and membership committees for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa; chairman and executive board member of Latinos Unidos del Condad de Sonoma in Santa Rosa; advisory member of Consejo Latino de Kaiser at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa; and advisory board member for Sonoma County on the Wells Fargo Community Reinvestment Act. He is a past chair of the board of directors of the National Center for Appropriate Technology and past chair of the Western Alliance of Farmworker Advocates, Inc. He has been honored with the North Bay Business Journal’s Latino Business Leadership Award and named one of the 50 Most Influential Community Leaders for the 20th Century by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

In recognition of his many accomplishments and contributions to the community, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and Sonoma State University are proud to confer upon George L. Ortiz the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.