- Fernando M. Torres-Gil (78-79) 2013 John W. Gardner Legacy of Leadership Award
The White House Fellows Foundation and Association
2013 John W. Gardner Legacy of Leadership Award
is presented to
Fernando M. Torres-Gil
White House Fellow 1978-79
John W. Gardner challenged all White House Fellows to commit to a lifetime of public service: to return to their communities after their Fellowship year and become agents of change and renewal, and to work to strengthen the White House Fellows Program. Fernando M. Torres-Gil has met John Gardner’s challenge and by any measure, has lived all the values of the White House Fellows program. His life is one of great personal and professional achievement, leadership and selfless service to community and country. His own life story makes his many achievements even more Personal Background: Fernando was born into poverty in an immigrant Mexican family in rural California. His single mother had nine children to support. As an infant, Fernando contracted polio, spent much of his youth in and out of the hospital, and was left disabled. Unable to work in the fields with his siblings to help support the family, he worked as a dishwasher, a prestigious job in his world because he could work inside and eat as much as he liked. From these humble beginnings, Fernando went on to receive his education, beginning at a community college, then San Jose State University, where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree, and then to Brandeis University, where he earned a Masters in Social Work and a Ph.D. in Social Policy and Management with a specialty in gerontology, becoming the first Latino to earn such a degree.
Leadership, Achievements and Dedication to Public Service: Fernando’s story helps explain his deep, life-long commitment to those in need in our diverse society. Throughout his professional and civic life, he has devoted himself to addressing some of the most significant issues in our society: the rapid aging of the population, long-term health care, entitlement reform, equal rights for the disabled, and the need for social safety nets. He has contributed significantly on these policy issues in academia, in the nonprofit sector and in government, and always in positions of leadership. His stellar academic work as a professor of social welfare and public policy at UCLA includes six books and over 100 articles for which he has earned many honors, including membership in several prestigious academies. He also has served in key leadership roles at UCLA, including Acting Dean and Associate Dean of the School of Public Affairs and received dual appointments in public policy from UCLA and USC.
Fernando has also repeatedly taken on important, high level posts in government to help shape and implement policies concerning the elderly and the disabled. He served as Staff Director of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aging (1985-87), was appointed by President Carter to the Federal Council on Aging (1978), was appointed by President Clinton to be the first Assistant Secretary for Aging in the Department of Health and Human Services (1993-96), and was named by President Obama to be a Vice Chair of the National Council on Disability (2010).Fernando also has given back to the country and his community in California and Los Angeles through his civic leadership and service on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations. Among the current organizations where he is serving in a leadership position are as a board member for AARP and a member of the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on End-of-Life Care. He most recently served as a board member of The California Endowment, the AARP Foundation and the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California. In Los Angeles, he has been appointed by various mayors to important city commissions including Planning, Harbors and Airports.
Support of the White House Fellows Program: Fernando has been an active alumnus of the White House Fellows program and remained in close touch with the Class of 1978-79 and other classes — recruiting candidates for the program, mentoring current Fellows, reading applications, speaking at the annual leadership conference, and giving Fernando M. Torres-Gil has dedicated his life to public service and giving back to his community. His consistently positive attitude is both infectious and inspirational. His notable intelligence, innate optimism, sense of humor, and grounded humanity sustain him and many others around him. The White House Fellows Foundation and Association is proud to salute him as its 2013 John W. Gardner Legacy of Leadership Award honoree.posted: June 20, 2013