- Dionicio Morales
Founder, Mexican American Opportunity Foundation
California State University, Los Angeles
Civil rights activist Dionicio Morales has devoted his life to securing economic opportunity and employment equality for persons of Mexican descent. In 1963, he founded the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF). Today, it is the largest Mexican American nonprofit community service organization in the United States.
Mr. Morales’ dream to establish MAOF, with his wife Maria always at his side, came to fruition when he met with Vice President Lyndon Johnson. The Foundation is based on partnering with private industry, the government, organized labor and the community. It serves more than 100,000 people annually; nearly 10 percent are children. The services provided include child care, skills training, nutrition assistance, computer science and management programs, employment services, legalization assistance for immigrants, literacy programs, and food banks.
Born in Arizona and raised in Ventura County by migrant farm-worker parents, Mr. Morales learned as a youth of the prejudices held against people of color. An early incident in a Moorpark theatre where he was evicted for sitting in the “Anglo” section set in motion his lifetime cause. Before founding MAOF, he worked to protect immigrant contract workers as an enforcement officer for the federal government, and was an organizer and recruiter of Mexican workers for labor unions.
Respectfully addressed as “Don Dionicio” by his friends, Mr. Morales is a constant supporter of the participation of Mexican Americans in the welfare of their country, the United States. Los Angeles County honored him by naming the Dionicio Morales Plaza at East Los Angeles’ Belvedere Park, and he is the recipient of the Life Achievement Award from Hispanic Business magazine.
In recognition of his lifelong dedication to equality and economic opportunity for his community, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, Los Angeles are proud to confer upon Dionicio Morales the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.