CSUSM Honors Ambassador Alejandro Orfila with Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters
By Margaret Chantung
California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) awarded an honorary doctoral degree to Alejandro Orfila, former secretary general to the Organization of American States and past Argentine ambassador to the United States, Japan and the Soviet Union on Tuesday, September 23. The Doctorate of Humane Letters was conferred by the California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees and presented by CSU Chancellor Timothy White.
“Ambassador Orfila’s professional career, his longtime advocacy for peace and his championing of education demonstrate his passion for humanity and for ensuring that opportunities exist for all who seek them,” said White. “He has given generously of his time, expertise and resources to help solve critical issues, prepare tomorrow’s leaders and build better communities. His tireless efforts to create greater understanding among nations are laudable, and his longstanding service to the Cal State San Marcos community is admirable.”
Alejandro Orfila: A Life of Service
Alejandro Orfila is an esteemed member of the international and local community, as well as a humanitarian and educator who has impacted the lives of thousands on a global scale. He is an inspiration, an example of the promise of a California State University education fulfilled.
“He embodies our ideals of thinking beyond self and contributing to society in ways that make it more just and equitable,” said President Karen Haynes. “He believes in our purpose and in the value of public higher education, and he has been a longtime supporter of our university and our region.”
Ambassador Orfila has worked closely with U.S. presidents, from Dwight Eisenhower to George H.W. Bush, and served as Argentine ambassador to the United States, Japan and the Soviet Union. One notable contribution to foreign policy and diplomacy came as secretary general of the Organization of American States, when he negotiated the Panama Canal Treaty of 1977.
After retiring to San Diego in the late 1980s, he founded what has become one of the most influential wineries in the region, Orfila Vineyards. As a member of the first President’s University Council at CSUSM, he assisted with the creation of the University in 1989. He has provided advice, counsel and support to every Cal State San Marcos president in the University’s nearly 25-year history. In 2013 he agreed to serve as the Department of History’s first Distinguished History Maker, connecting with students and faculty to support the educational mission of CSUSM and enrich students learning experiences and career aspirations.
“You have been a role model not only for our students but also for those of us in the faculty as well,” Dr. Carmen Nava, professor of history, said to the Ambassador during the event. “Your kindness, good humor, patience and immense knowledge have impacted us all and touched our lives.”
Honorary Degree: Doctorate of Humane Letters
Honorary degree recipients are selected by a campus committee of faculty and staff from recommendations made by CSUSM students, faculty, staff, alumni and the greater community. The committee then forwards nominations to the president for approval and then to the chancellor of the California State University system. The CSU Board of Trustees makes the final determination and awards the degrees in the categories it considers most appropriate. Honorary degree recipients have demonstrated excellence in areas that benefit humanity, CSU campuses, the state, nation and/or world and serve as examples to be recognized and honored for their good works.
All honorary degrees awarded by CSUSM are conferred by the Board of Trustees of the California State University in the name of CSUSM and the California State University.
“I have been a longtime supporter and believer in public higher education,” said Orfila. “And I am very honored to be the recipient of this honorary degree.”