Carmela G. Lacayo is a quiet but powerful leader.
Born in Mexico, educated in parochial schools in Los Angeles and San Diego, California and a graduate of Immaculate Heart College, Ms. Lacayo has made social change her professional and personal commitment.
Through years of service to the poor and disenfranchised, her dedication to Hispanic, low income and aging communities in the United States has led her from grassroots community work, to political involvement at the national level, and the founding and leadership of two major Hispanic organizations which serve the poor and elderly.
Ms. Lacayo's concern for the unmet needs and untapped potential of the Hispanic community led her to found the Asociacion Nacional Pro Personas Mayores (National Association for Hispanic Elderly) in 1975. As President CEO of the Asociacion, Ms. Lacayo administers the largest Hispanic nonprofit organization in the United States, with an annual budget of 19 million dollars. The Asociacion has fifteen offices throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Through Ms. Lacayo's work the organization has been recognized by the Federal Government and the US Congress as a pioneer in the field of minority aging in the United States.
She is also the founder and President of EI Pueblo Community Development Corporation, the first Hispanic economic development corporation in the City of Los Angeles.
Throughout her years of service to the poor, Ms. Lacayo has gained a national and international reputation as a public policy advocate for social change. Called upon as an expert witness before Congress and many state and local governments, Ms. Lacayo has also served on presidential commissions, national advisory committees for universities and corporate America. In addition, her leadership has also taken her to Latin America where she developed fieldwork curriculum in Sociology and Urban Planning at the Universidad de San Buenaventura in Medellin, Colombia.
Her career has many "firsts." Nominated by President Carter to become the First Vice-Chairperson of the National Democratic Party in 1977, she became the first Hispanic and the youngest person in the history of either major U.S. political party to hold such office. In 1991 she was named fellow of the Gerontological Society of America, the first Hispanic fellow of the Society. In 1991 she received the "Outstanding Professional of the Year" Award from the National Society of Fund Raising Executives, once again the first Hispanic to receive this award. In 1989 Ms. Lacayo was invited to join the Trusteeship, the Los Angeles affiliate of the International Women's Forum, an international organization of the most prominent women leaders. She was also recently named one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in the U.S.
Over the years, Carmela Lacayo has received many local, state and national awards for community service. In the year 2000 she was honored by the cities of Miami, New Orleans, Philadelphia and San Juan, Puerto Rico for her service to low income citizens of those communities.
Carmela Lacayo has often been recognized for her many years of dedicated service, for her pioneering work in public policy, her relentless commitment to social justice, and for her personal and professional integrity. And most importantly for her quiet but powerful leadership on behalf of the Hispanic Community. One of her mottos speaks loudly of who she is: "To be fully alive is to work for the common good."
Siena College today honors Carmela G. Lacayo for her effective efforts towards a more humane and dignified society, conferring the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.