News Column

NCLR's Evolution

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Mr. Yzaguirre recalls that growth during the organization's fledgling years was difficult. "The country wasn't ready to listen to another minority group [after the years of the civil rights movement]. It had what I'd call 'compassion fatigue,' and we were moving toward a more conservative era [in Washington]. But we had a clear vision of what we wanted to do and with hard work and commitment by many we built it into this premier institution."

Brent Wilkes, Washington director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), notes Mr. Yzaguirre's accomplishments. "[Mr. Yzaguirre] leaves a tremendous legacy at NCLR and in the Latino community in general," he says. "The work he has done to move the organization forward and its agenda of helping Hispanics is enormous."

NCLR Yzaguirre
President, CEO
Joined NCLR: 1974
Age: 64
Raised: Texas
Education: bachelor of science, George Washington University
Board seats include: Sears, Roebuck & Co.; United Way of America; AARP Services Inc.; National Hispanic Leadership Agenda; Salvation Army

For the past several months, Mr. Yzaguirre has been working with Ms. Murguia on the transition. "While I have no intention of retiring and I hope to do other things, it is time for me to end my career [at NCLR]. I haven't made up my mind where I'm going to go or what I'm going to do, but I hope to make the transition within a year," says Mr. Yzaguirre, who is battling Parkinson's disease. "It's my objective to continue to be involved and try to make a difference, and at the same time focus on my health and my family and be able to give that more attention."

Mr. Yzaguirre says he is considering offers from several universities to help create public policy and community-based centers, but notes his continued interest in seeing NCLR strengthen its leadership role, including in the areas of finance and technology.

"We need to establish wealth-creating communities and a greater understanding of technology and financial issues and how they impact the community," he says. "We also need to make a difference in education, and we need more respect from corporations. Right now they aren't really taking us that seriously."

Ms. Murguia, who has served on NCLR's board of directors since 2002 and is the first Hispanic woman to head the organization, says she is still formulating an agenda and expects it to be a strong, unified vision that will "take NCLR to the next level. I think our community and our country are ready, and that is part of what I want to get out of the 'listening tour,' to bring our affiliates together and to increase the visibility of NCLR and reinforce our role that differentiates us.

"We do advocacy, policy, and research work, and people value that. We have a very good reputation and more people need to know about us," says Ms. Murguia, adding that the organization's visibility is an important issue for her, so NCLR is developing a strategic communications and marketing plan.

"For me, it's important that we are just like the rest of the mainstream community in that we care about many things, like the economy, and education. NCLR works across the board on many issues and we've been a voice on many issues, and maybe enough people don't know about that," Ms. Murguia says.

With the growth in population that we have seen in the Hispanic community come new needs and responsibilities, and it's very important to make sure that NCLR is positioned to meet them," says Janet Murguia, NCLR executive director.

One area of involvement is the Raza Development Fund, established in 1998 as the community-development lending arm of NCLR. The Phoenix-based fund, which provides loans and technical assistance to groups that work with low-income Hispanic families, last year approved $18 million in loans for charter schools, health centers, community facilities, and affordable-housing units. The fund's investor partners include Bank of America, State Farm Insurance, the Fannie Mae Foundation, and Allstate Insurance. It also has an agreement with Citicorp USA involving $5 million in capacity-building assistance from the Citigroup Foundation and a $100 million lending facility. "I'm very excited about it," Ms. Murguia says. "It creates capacity building, and we wanted to have a fund that looks at the needs of the community and offers assistance."

Ms. Murguia also notes the important message her appointment sends to Hispanic women. "We have so many Latinas who are so capable in our community, and this is an important signal to send to our entire community that a woman can come in and take leadership of a major national Hispanic organization. Raul Yzaguirre has laid such a solid foundation for NCLR, and to be able to come in and take it to a new level is a great challenge [and] an exciting opportunity. With the growth in population that we have seen in the Hispanic community comes new needs and responsibilities, and it's very important to make sure that NCLR is positioned to meet them."

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