The Rev. Gregory J. Boyle, author of The New York Times-bestseller Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, lauded California State University, Los Angeles as an institution that inspires students to improve their lives and make a difference in their communities.
“There’s something special about this place that holds out so much hope,” Boyle told a standing-room-only audience during a One Campus, One Book and Mind Matters Speakers Series event.
“This will be the place you go from,” Boyle added, referencing a statement by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
A Jesuit priest, Boyle is the founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries, a gang intervention program in Boyle Heights. From 1986 to 1992, he served as pastor of Dolores Mission Church, also in Boyle Heights, not far from Cal State LA. At the time, the church was the poorest Catholic parish in Los Angeles and was wedged between two sprawling public housing projects. The community was an epicenter of gang violence.
Boyle's book is a collection of parables about compassion and redemption. He writes about acts of kindness and caring toward gang members. These ranged from being a father figure to an action as simple as remembering a young man's name.
Boyle was introduced at the Feb. 9 event at the Golden Eagle Ballroom by Cal State LA President William A. Covino. The event was cosponsored by One Campus, One Book, the Cross Cultural Centers, First Year Experience, Honors College, Mind Matters, and the University Library.
“The themes of this book--compassion, kinship and nurturing potential--resonate on our campus, in our community and in our nation,” Covino said, adding that Tattoos on the Heart was the ideal choice for the One Campus, One Book initiative.
“The goal of Mind Matters parallels that of Homeboy Industries. Sometimes we see in our students what they don’t see in themselves,” Covino added. “Our activities--from lectures such as this one, to mindfulness workshops, and de-stressing visits by therapy dogs--are designed to help students achieve inner well-being, which is a crucial first step in realizing their potential.”
The stories chronicled in Tattoos on the Heart coincide with a period of record homicide rates and rising violence in Los Angeles. Amid law enforcement policies that relied on suppression tactics and mass incarceration, Boyle and community members chose to rely on an approach that treated gang members as human beings.
In the late 1980s, Boyle and community members launched what would eventually become Homeboy Industries, now the largest gang-intervention, rehabilitation, and re-entry program in the world. Homeboy employs and trains former gang members with employment and business skills and has provided critical services to thousands of people seeking a better life.
Boyle received the California Peace Prize and is a member of the California Hall of Fame. In 2014, the White House named him a Champion of Change. He holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and English from Gonzaga University, a master’s degree in English from Loyola Marymount University, a Master of Divinity degree from the Weston School of Theology, and a Master of Sacred Theology degree from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.
Photo: The Rev. Gregory J. Boyle in the Golden Eagle Ballroom. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA)
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Cal State LA is ranked number one in the nation based on the upward mobility of its students. Founded in 1947, Cal State LA is the premier public comprehensive university in the heart of Los Angeles and is dedicated to the mission of engagement, service, and the public good. The University serves more than 27,000 students and more than 247,000 distinguished alumni, who are as diverse as the region we serve. Led by an award-winning faculty, the University offers nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and the humanities.
Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit www.CalStateLA.edu.