SMCC Founding President Dr. Raúl Cárdenas Inducted into the HACU Hall of Champions

Monday, October 10, 2022
Cardenas HACU

Photo Courtesy of HACU

South Mountain Community College founding President Dr. Raúl Cárdenas was inducted into the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) Hall of Champions during its 2022 Annual Conference on Oct 9-10.

The Hall of Champions honors those who embody the mission of the Association through exemplary efforts "To Champion Hispanic Success in Higher Education."

Dr. Cárdenas, who was inducted alongside US Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, has been a strong advocate for access to higher education throughout his entire career. In the Spring of 2022, he was honored at the SMCC Shining STARS Gala, where it was announced that the college's Athletic Complex would be named for him, in recognition of his tremendous work in getting athletics, academic and student life programs off the ground.

From 1978 – 2006, Dr. Cárdenas served the Maricopa County Community College District initially as the founding president of SMCC, and then as the second president at Paradise Valley Community College. He later also served in interim capacities as MCCCD Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, and provost of Mesa Community College Downtown.

Dr. Cárdenas came to SMCC as the first Hispanic and minority college president in the history of Arizona. Over the course of his storied career, he not only led two colleges with sophistication, compassion, and excellence, he also sought to improve the field of higher education and promote the significance of MCCCD in his work with a myriad of regional and national associations.

Since 1978, Dr. Cárdenas has collected accolades and support, garnering a national reputation for excellence in higher education. In particular, he has been celebrated by his colleagues on national and regional associations for Hispanic and Southwest leaders, including:

  • In 1985 he helped to found the National Community College Hispanic Council (NCCHC). Within a few years, his colleagues in the NCCHC elected him as president.
  • The same year, he became a charter member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) and was elected as chairman to the organization by his fellow association members. Later in 2006, HACU awarded Cárdenas their Lifelong Leadership Award.
  • He maintained memberships with respected organizations such as the Kellogg Foundation’s Hispanic Border Leadership Institute, the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Council on Education, and the College Board. He later served as president of the International Consortium on Education and Economic Development.
  • In 1992, he became a charter member of the International Consortium for Economic and International Development. The organization at the time was home to 40 member institutions along the borders of the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. He remained active with the organization into his retirement. Again, it only took a few years before he was elected president.
  • He was a member of the North Central Accreditation-Institutions Action Council, as well as the College Board.
  • Later in his career, he was honored with the Western Regional College Board’s Exemplar Award.

Dr. Cárdenas at the SMCC 2022 STARS Gala.

Dr Cardenas Stars Gala 22