Fielding Graduate University's Social Justice Award Recognizes the life work of Marie Fielder, PhD (posthumous) and Yvon Chouinard, founder and CEO of Patagonia.
During Fielding's annual Janaury Winter Session at the Fess Parker Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara,CA, faculty, students, staff and alumni came together to recognize the social justice work of Fielder and Chouinard. The Social Justice Award was established in 1986 by psychology alumna Lynn Friedman Kessler to recognize demonstrated concern for and commitment to the furtherance of social justice. The award is granted through the Office of the President and demonstrative of one Fielding's core values focused on reducing the many forms of inequality.
Marie Fielder, PhD
Fielder achieved national prominence as the first African American woman with a doctorate to teach in the San Francisco Bay Area, and for her theories that focused on how diverse cultures and groups relate to one another. Fielder was one of the first researchers to document cultural bias in IQ testing, and was instrumental in making the Berkeley public schools the first in the nation to desegregate through two-way busing.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, Fielder contributed to the work of such civil rights leaders as Martin Luther King, Jr., and Whitney Young. She also advised numerous government and civil-rights organizations, including the U.S. Department of Education, the Black Panther Party for Defense and Justice, and the National Organization for Women. Fielder lectured, directed diversity forums, and conducted workshops and training for many school systems, government agencies and businesses across the United States.
Fielder worked with many kinds of people to help empower and enable them to solve their own problems. She inspired several generations of students at the three universities at which she held faculty appointments in California, many of whom went on to pursue highly successful careers.
As Congressman Ron Dellums said about her in 1995 when he acknowledged Fielder in the Congressional Record, she has been an exemplary public servant, bringing quiet dignity and distinction to every project on which she has worked.
Chouinard was born in Lewiston, Maine, in 1938, and raised in Southern California. There, as a teen he taught himself how to climb, surf, skin dive—and blacksmith. By the early 1970s when he founded Patagonia, Chouinard Equipment pitons, carabiners and ice axes had become the world standard.
Spending 140 days a year in the natural world, Chouinard learned early in his life as an alpinist, surfer and fly fisherman the seriousness of the environmental crisis—and he brought this knowledge to bear on his work. In the late 1980s he instituted Patagonia’s earth tax, pledging 1 percent of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment.
In the 1990s, Chouinard encouraged Patagonia to consciously to reduce the environmental footprint of its products and activities, beginning with a 100 percent switch from conventional to organic cotton and the introduction of fleece clothing made from recycled polyester. He then sought to work with other partner companies to reduce environmental harm on a global scale. Chouinard, either independently, or with Patagonia helped co-found the Fair Labor Association, One Percent for the Planet, the Textile Exchange, the Conservation Alliance, and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. In addition, Patagonia has been a B corp member since 2012.
Chouinard continues to surf and fly fish. He is the author or co-author of Climbing Ice, Let My People Go Surfing, The Responsible Company and Simple Fly Fishing.
President Katrina Rogers and Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Research, Orlando Taylor, PhD, took stage in front of a packed house to introduce the outstanding work of the recipients.
Nicola Smith, MBA, JD, daughter of Fielder, shared some inspiring words about her mother’s work, as she accepted her award posthumously. She encouraged today and tomorrow’s scholar to exemplify Fielding’s values by leading the way in the social justice field.
Highlights of the evening also included a question and answer session with Chouinard after he introduced his company values and goals. Chouinard enthusiastically shared personal insights to his life and business vision. The discussion addressed topics such as his work to promote a more sustainable retail industry that educates consumers, his ongoing commitment to choose international supplier with safe and fair practices and his efforts to offer an innovative and equitable working environment to his employees. As the evening closed, the energy in the room was contagious after what had proved to be a lively and informative award ceremony.