Born in Spain in 1946 and an immigrant to the United States at the age of ten, Isabel Hernandez-Serna dedicated 30 years of her life to the students at California State University, Sacramento. She died after a long illness on September 18, 2000, 10 months after the death of her husband, Joe Serna, Jr. (see Academy Inductees, 2000).
Dr. Hernandez-Serna received the B.A. (Spanish) and the M.A. (Latin American Literature) from Sac State. She earned a second M.A. and the Ph.D., both in Curriculum and Instruction, from Stanford University. Her doctoral work emphasized Bicultural/Bilingual Education and Sociolinguistics. She began teaching at Sac State in 1970, and taught in the Ethnic Studies, Spanish, and Teacher Education programs. She served as the director of both Educational Equity and University Outreach. From 1994 until her death, Dr. Hernandez-Serna served as the University's Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs, Educational Equity and Student Retention.
Dr. Hernandez-Serna was highly visible on campus and in the Sacramento Region. She served on many commissions, committees, and boards. In 1992, for example, she was chair of the Tesoros de la Tierra Steering Committee for the Crocker Art Museum; in 1993, she served on the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee, Eastern District. She was a member of numerous national professional organizations. At CSUS, she chaired or served on a tremendous number of committees and working groups, particularly those regarding educational equity issues. Her commitment to and tireless work for community and campus brought her a number of major awards: the Women in History Award for Heritage, from the Sacramento History Center (1992); the Raza Advocates for California Higher Education Award (1992); the Sacramento Magazine Regional Pride Award for Education (1992); the YWCA Outstanding Women Award (1990); and the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Conference, Five Year Service Award (1988).
Recalling her own immigrant, working-class roots, Isabel Hernandez-Serna was a passionate advocate for people trying to find their way along the path to assimilation in this country. She wanted everyone to do well and to do so while celebrating the beauty of his or her heritage. She cared greatly about others. She once observed,
"It's not that I am the only one who cares, but if everyone who cares assumes that someone else will get things done, nothing ever will happen. People need help. People need to help."