The Puerto Rican community and Centro have lost a dear friend and an important voice with the passing of Louis Núñez. He had a long and very distinguished career in public service and not-for-profit organizations, focused particularly on the Puerto Rican and Latino communities.
Born in East Harlem and raised in the Bronx, Núñez rose to become national executive director of Aspira, an organization devoted to developing education and leadership opportunities for Puerto Rican youth. During his time at Aspira, the organization transformed from a small neighborhood agency to a national institution and gained a reputation as one of the most effective and professional Latino institutions in the United States. Núñez once wrote that “Aspira’s most important accomplishment was to enable an impoverished community, with seeming little hope for social and economic advancement at the beginning of the Sixties, to establish a quality community-controlled professional organization, which succeeded in developing . . . committed and competent leaders.”
He was appointed to the CUNY’s Board of Higher Education by Mayor John Lindsay in 1967. There, Núñez helped to approve the creation of the first Puerto Rican studies as well as black studies departments on the East Coast.
Starting in 1977, Núñez served as president of the National Puerto Rican Coalition, a Washington-based advocacy group that was founded to further the social, economic, and political well-being of Puerto Ricans. In 1972 he was named deputy staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. In 1979, he was named staff director of the commission by President Jimmy Carter, a post he held until 1981.
Last year, Núñez was included in Centro’s 100 Puerto Ricans Campaign. The campaign is designed to celebrate the contributions of individuals and organizations that are making a difference in our community. Accepting the award, Núñez said, “It’s been a long life, and my life in a way parallels the development of the Puerto Rican community in the United States . . . . I grew up in New York [in] the ’40s, the ’50s, the ’60s . . . I lived all of that.”
Our hearts go out to his wife, Cecilia, and his children and grandchildren in this time of sadness. He was a wonderful leader and a wonderful human being. He will be very much missed.
Condolences may be expressed directly to the family or via the online guestbook for NYTimes obituaries http://www.legacy.com/guestbooks/nytimes/louis-nunez-condolences In lieu of flowers, gifts in memory of Louis Núñez may be directed to support research done by Núñez’s oncologist, Dr. Ivana Gojo, at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center,e 750 East Pratt Street, Suite 1700, Baltimore, MD 21202,www.hopkinsmedicine.org.