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Memorial Tribute Honoring Frank Bonilla

A memorial tribute to Dr. Frank Bonilla, founder and longtime director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies (Centro) at Hunter College, will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 9, at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College.

The memorial will celebrate the life of Dr. Bonilla, a revered leader of the Puerto Rican community, scholar, activist and humanitarian. The program will include a tribute by Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab. A documentary, The Legacy of Frank Bonilla, made especially for the event, will be screened from 7:15 to 8:00 p.m.

Bonilla, the founder and first director of Centro, died on December 28 in Escondido, CA at the age of 85. He dedicated his career to giving Latinos and other underrepresented groups a voice in the academic world. His scholarship concentrated on Puerto Rican and Latino studies, focusing in particular on the political and economic forces that engender exploitation and injustice. He began his academic career in 1960 with the American Universities Field Service in Latin America and then joined the political science department at MIT, pursuing his interests in Latin America. He taught at Stanford University and the CUNY Graduate Center before being appointed Thomas Hunter Professor of Sociology at Hunter.

As Centro’s director from 1973 to 1993, he helped define the field of Puerto Rican studies and established Centro as a vital academic and community resource. While at Centro, he co-founded the Inter-University Program for Latino Research; worked for community empowerment and against the disproportionate imprisonment of members of communities of color; worked to deter institutional racism, and advanced prison-based education and other prison reforms.  Dr. Bonilla continued working for these and other social, economic and educational causes until failing health made it no longer possible.

For more information about the memorial, please contact Rosalie Roman at

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