How Chicanos Helped Change Stanford University

This is a story about transformational change: How Stanford was pressured to pivot from a virtually all-White student body to a university with growing numbers of students of color. This largely untold story focuses on Mexican Americans – or Chicanos as they preferred to be called. It is chronicled not only through events and actions but also through the students’ recollections of angst and joy, challenges and rewards, distress and romance, struggles to achieve goals and dreams that came true.

The story begins with 75 years of non-diversity at Stanford, whose founding president became an advocate of the racist principles of eugenics. The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 and the ensuing demands by Stanford’s Black students jarred the university to finally open its doors to larger numbers of people of color.

In the fall of 1969, more than 70 Mexican American freshmen arrived for classes at Stanford. Unlike most Stanford students – offspring of doctors, lawyers and other professionals – the vast majority of these freshmen were sons and daughters of cooks, janitors, farmworkers and factory laborers. Their arrival, along with the entry of similar numbers of African Americans, launched the university’s diversity initiative, which later become known as affirmative action. In a similar way, movement toward campus diversity was starting at other U.S. universities during the same tumultuous era of anti-Vietnam War protests and the forceful demands of Blacks, Chicanos, women and other activists.

The trailblazing Mexican American students recall feeling uncomfortable by an economic and cultural divide with their White peers. Nonetheless, they adjusted to their new environment and worked persistently to bring about a more welcoming and diverse university. The Chicano students were changed by the Stanford experience, and, by their presence and determined activism, they changed Stanford.

A half century later, the movement toward full diversity/inclusion continues at Stanford – just as it does at other colleges and universities across the United States.

-- See Advance Reviews Below--




This book represents the latest work by Frank O. Sotomayor that documents significant events and stories. He was a Los Angeles Times editor for 35 years and co-editor and writer of the 1983 Times series "Latinos in Southern California." The 27-part series, considered a landmark in diversity story-telling, won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. His online book, “The Pulitzer Long Shot,” chronicles the back story of the Latino series. In 1974, he authored “Para Los Niños / For the Children: Improving Education for Mexican Americans.”

While earning his master’s degree at Stanford in 1966-67, he and three other Chicano students pressed the dean of admissions for greater recruitment and admissions of Mexican Americans. When Sotomayor graduated and left to begin his career, the other three Chicanos continued their activism for a greater Chicano presence in the student body. In 2011, Sotomayor was inducted into the Stanford Multicultural Alumni Hall of Fame and El Centro Chicano y Latino’s Hall of Fame.

Sotomayor received his B.A. in journalism from the University of Arizona, Tucson, and after a long newspaper career, he was inducted into the UA School of Journalism Hall of Fame. In 1985-86, he studied at Harvard as a Nieman Fellow. Sotomayor was a co-founder of three organizations dedicated to increasing diversity in the news media. He lives in Tucson with his wife, Barbara, a researcher for the book.

Frank Sotomayor tells the stories of the many challenges, successes, and contributions of the first classes of Chicano students at Stanford University in the early 1970s. Their experiences paved the way for so many Latino students, including my brother Joaquin and me, countless others.

Julián Castro Secretary of U.S. Housing and Urban Development, 2014-17; mayor, San Antonio, 2009-14; Stanford, B.A., 1996

“The Dawning of Diversity” provides an interesting and important slice of Chicano history and how it unfolded at Stanford University.

Albert Camarillo Professor emeritus of history, Stanford University

Important lessons can be drawn from the events and outcomes meticulously documented by Sotomayor. He describes the experiences of students whose activism persuaded the university to admit a significant number of Chicanos beginning in 1969 and continuing to the present. This is a “must read.”

Maria L. Baeza, Stanford Stanford: M.A. Latin American Studies, 1972; assistant to the graduate division dean, 1970-1973; assistant to the president, 1977-1980

Sotomayor’s book tells the story few know or understand. It provides insight into Stanford University’s exclusionary history, and the changes advocated by Latino student pioneers that placed it on its current trajectory. Yet, as Sotomayor notes, much progress is still needed.
Arturo Vargas

Arturo Vargas CEO, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials; B.A. 1984, M.A., 1985

This is a unique composite memoir of Stanford’s first sizeable undergraduate classes of Chicanos. Sotomayor explores their many triumphs and inevitable frustrations, while illuminating their lasting instructional impact.

Carlos E. Cortés Professor emeritus of history, University of California, Riverside

This important book chronicles the early struggles and successes of the Chicano community at Stanford as it sought to establish itself as a vital and vibrant facet of Stanford University. It is a “must read” for anyone affiliated with Stanford.

Yvonne (Bonnie) Maldonado M.D., Stanford, Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Diversity



For questions or to purchase multiple copies, contact the author at WestBySW@att.net