Dr. Eloy Ortiz Oakley recipient of this year’s Diverse Champions Award


The Diverse Champions Award recognizes higher education leaders who have shown unwavering commitment
to equal opportunity and access for all, particularly at the community college level.

Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley embodies the impact that California Community Colleges are having in transforming lives. He grew up in the Florence-Firestone area of South Los Angeles in the mid-1970s and early 1980s, the son of an American-born father who was schooled in Mexico and a mother who was a Mexican immigrant. After serving four years in the Army, he enrolled at Golden West College and transferred to the University of California, Irvine, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in environmental analysis and design and a master’s degree in business administration.

During his expansive career in higher education, he has served in nearly every role from adjunct faculty member to chancellor. In 2007 he was appointed superintendent-president of the Long Beach Community College District, one of the most diverse community college districts in the nation, and he became increasingly well-known for providing statewide and national leadership on improving educational outcomes of historically underrepresented students. In 2015, President Obama launched the America’s College Promise initiative that was modeled in part on the Long Beach Promise.

Since 2016 he has served as chancellor for the California Community Colleges where he has established a vision for improvement with clear goals and a set of commitments needed to ensure that California student outcomes significantly improve.

Growing up in South Central Los Angeles during a time of rising crime and dwindling job opportunities, Oakley recalls that the expectations of going to college for children from a Mexican-American family like his were somewhere between slim and none. Higher education set him on a path to where he is today. And he has tirelessly dedicated his entire career to preserving this path for others.

More about the Diverse
Champions Award


With regret and an abundance of caution related to the spread of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) the Diverse/NISOD reception at the AACC National Convention has been cancelled. We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your understanding.

The award was created by Diverse: Issues In Higher Education in 2012 upon the retirement of the inaugural Diverse Champions Award winner, Dr. John E. Roueche, as director of the Community College Leadership Program (CCLP) at the University of Texas at Austin. Of the more than 500 CCLP graduates produced during his 40-plus year tenure at CCLP, more than 60 percent are women and people of color.

The Diverse Champions Award is given to individuals who have made similarly extraordinary contributions to the world of higher education.

The April 1, 2021, edition of Diverse will contain a tribute to Dr. Eloy Ortiz Oakley. Please join us and many other institutions, organizations, and colleagues in this recognition of his career achievements by
placing a congratulatory/celebratory message.

Past Recipients


  • 2020: Dr. Curtis L. Ivery, Chancellor of the Wayne County Community College District
  • 2019: Dr. Ken Atwater, President, Hillsborough Community College
  • 2018: Co-recipients: Dr. Suanne Davis Roueche (posthumously) and Dr. Christine Johnson McPhail, founder of the Community College Leadership Doctoral Program at Morgan State University (MD)
  • 2017: Dr. Kay McClenney, Senior Adviser to the President and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges
  • 2016: Dr. Terry O’Banion, Former President of the League for Innovation in the Community College
  • 2015: Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón, President of Miami Dade College
  • 2014: Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton, Former President of Cuyahoga Community College
  • 2013: Dr. Walter G. Bumphus, President and CEO of American Association of Community Colleges
  • 2012: Dr. John E. Roueche, Former Director of the Community College Leadership Program at The University of Texas at Austin