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Fierro, Leonard | Special Collections & University Archives

Name: Fierro, Leonard

Historical Note:

Leonard Fierro was born in El Paso, Texas in 1918 but spent 72 years of his life as an educator and activist in San Diego, California. He attended San Diego High School and in 1941 graduated from San Diego State College with a bachelor's degree in history.  During his college years he was a founding member of the Tolteca Athletic Association, also known as Tolteca Fraternity, "a Hispanic social organization that would become a powerful force in city athletics and politics." After graduating, Fierro served in the Army during World War II and was awarded a Purple Heart in January of 1945 for wounds received in Germany. However he, as well as many returning soldiers with varying cultural backgrounds, was surprised when he arrived back home. "We'd just fought a war for liberty and justice, and when we came home we found that we didn't have it in our own city," Fierro said. After the war, Fierro returned to San Diego State earning his master's degree in history in 1956. He began his teaching career at Kearny High School and transferred to Clairemont High in 1959 where he taught history and government.

In 1967, Fierro served as coordinator and then director for the English as a Second Language (ESL) Bilingual-Bicultural Demonstration Center for San Diego County, where he stayed until 1970. Over these years, he developed resource materials for teachers and students and worked to award college credit for bilingual education summer programs in conjunction with local colleges. He also provided consultant services to schools and produced a nation-wide newsletter on ESL bilingual education. In 1970, Fierro became director of project Curriculum Adaptation Network for Bilingual Bicultural Education (CANBBE) Far West Region, where he conceptualized, planned and developed culturally relevant supplementary materials for grades 1-3 which included readers, coloring books, and games that he field-tested and approved for nation-wide distribution. In 1975, he served as Co-director for the San Diego State University Bilingual Bicultural Resource Center which would later become the National Origin Desegregation Assistance Center (NODAC or Lau Center) in the Institute for Cultural Pluralism. The Center provided consulting services to schools across California and coordinated with federal as well as state and local agencies to help develop and implement comprehensible educational plans to meet the needs of language minority students.

Aside from his professional achievements, Fierro was an active community organizer. He helped to establish the Association of Mexican-American Educators (AMAE) and played a critical role in founding the San Diego County Chicano Federation as well as the Mexican-American Advisory Committee (MAAC), a San Diego County anti-poverty organization. After his retirement in 1987, he began work on a book about local Latino activists, some of which he interviewed, but never finished.  Leonard Fierro passed away on November 20, 1995.


Mark T. Sullivan.  "'Dark ages' to daylight: city's racial tale | Longtime locals laud changes, but remember a painful past :[1,2,3,4,5,6 Edition]. " San Diego Tribune  18  Nov. 1991, ProQuest Newsstand, ProQuest. Web.  14 Jul. 2010.

National Timberwolf Association


Resumes, Leonard Fierro Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, Library and Information Access, San Diego State University.

Sharon L. Jones.  "Leonard Fierro, 77; bilingual education activist :[1,2,3,4,5,6,7 Edition]. "

The San Diego Union - Tribune  25  Nov. 1995, ProQuest Newsstand, ProQuest. Web.  14 Jul. 2010.

Note Author: Priscilla Lopez

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