By Deborah Bach
Even before she became the University of Washington’s 33rd president earlier this month, Ana Mari Cauce was a leader who broke down barriers and inspired students and other community members.
That’s why Cauce was selected to receive the Greater Seattle Business Association’s 2015 Special Recognition: Voice for Social Justice Award, said Louise Chernin, the association’s president and CEO.
“Being the first Latina woman and the first lesbian woman in her position – we know those journeys aren’t easy,” Chernin said. “But as she’s been on that journey she has stayed true to herself, and we hear from students, staff and faculty how respected she is and how supportive she is of everyone.
“All of us in the GSBA are incredibly excited to honor someone we so admire and respect.”
Cauce was informed about the award during a kickoff event Thursday for Urban@UW, a new initiative focused on addressing urban issues in the city and region. She will be recognized at the GBSA’s awards dinner February 23, 2016, at Seattle’s Waterfront Marriott Hotel. The 1,100-member association, described as the region’s LGBT chamber of commerce, has given annual awards for the past 34 years in categories including new business, corporate leader and nonprofit of the year.
“However, there are years when someone defies all categories and simply needs to be recognized as an important voice for social justice, and this year, President Cauce is that special person,” Chernin said.
Cauce, who grew up in Miami after emigrating with her parents from Cuba, has been a UW faculty member since 1986. Last April, as interim president, she launched the university’s Race & Equity Initiative, which aims to bring together UW faculty, staff and students to address issues around inequity and social justice. Cause has won numerous awards for her work, including the Luis Fernando Esteban Public Service Award, the Grace Hopper Exemplary Leadership Award and the UW’s Distinguished Teaching Award, the university’s highest honor for faculty members.
The GBSA gives scholarships annually to students who excel academically and demonstrate a commitment to LGBT civil rights. The scholarships often go to UW graduates and current students, Chernin said, and many have said Cauce was an important role model and inspiration for them.
“She’s been a mentor to many of them,” she said. “And to see a member of our community in this position is an inspiration to all students.”