UC Merced said it named former California Supreme Court justice and civil rights lawyer Cruz Reynoso the 2011 recipient of the Alice and Clifford Spendlove Prize in Social Justice, Diplomacy and Tolerance.
The university will award the prize to Reynoso during an evening ceremony April 21. The next day at 3:30 p.m. in the Classroom and Office Building, Room 105, Reynoso will give an oral history that's open to the public. No R.S.V.P. is required.
The Spendlove Prize was established through a gift to the university from Sherrie Spendlove in honor of her parents, lifelong Merced residents Alice and Clifford Spendlove. The prize honors an individual who exemplifies the delivery of social justice, diplomacy and tolerance in his or her work.
"Justice Reynoso has been a lifelong trailblazer, helping those of humble beginnings have access to the legal system," Sherrie Spendlove said in a news release. "One of the things that makes our sixth recipient so compelling is that he withstood his own adversities and disadvantages and became a champion of social justice for all people."
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Merced Sun-Star
Driven by his upbringing as the son of two farmworkers in the Central Valley, Reynoso pursued a career in law, advocating for immigrants' rights. He earned his law degree from UC Berkeley and was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1959.
Reynoso directed the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation from 1969 to 1972. He was appointed associate justice to the 3rd District Court of Appeal in 1976. In 1982, he was appointed as the first Latino associate justice of the California Supreme Court by Gov. Jerry Brown.
In 2000, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor, for his lifelong devotion to public service. Reynoso served as vice chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 1994 to 2004. He has been a professor of law at the University of New Mexico, UCLA and UC Davis.
The Spendlove Prize Selection Committee is led by Mark Aldenderfer, dean of the university's School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, and includes a representative from the Spendlove family or a designee, an undergraduate student, a graduate student, a faculty member, and representatives from the UC Merced community.
The Spendlove Prize includes a $10,000 award. Previous recipients of the award include:
2006 -- Charles J. Ogletree Jr., a Merced native, professor of law and founding executive director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard University.
2007 -- John Y. Tateishi, a civil rights activist who led the successful redress campaign for Japanese-Americans in the aftermath of World War II internment.
2008 -- Sara O'Meara and Yvonne Fedderson, founders of Childhelp, a nationwide organization devoted to the prevention and treatment of child abuse. O'Meara and Fedderson have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for their work with abused children.
2009 -- Faye J. Crosby, a professor of psychology at UC Santa Cruz and expert on affirmative action and inclusiveness.
2010 -- Jimmy Carter, a former U.S. president who made the global quest for basic human rights a central platform in his administration.