Social justice champion Stewart Kwoh receives honorary doctorate at Cal State LA Commencement 2018

May 10, 2018

By Jillian Beck | Cal State LA News Service

Social justice champion Stewart Kwoh received an honorary doctorate during the 2018 Commencement at California State University, Los Angeles.

Kwoh helped found Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles (Advancing Justice - LA), the nation’s largest Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander legal and civil rights organization. He serves as the organization’s founding president and executive director.

Cal State LA and the California State University Board of Trustees conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws to Kwoh during an afternoon Commencement ceremony for the College of Natural and Social Sciences. He also delivered keynote remarks.

“Stewart Kwoh is an unwavering champion for educational equity, social justice and civic engagement,” President William A. Covino said, moments before presenting Kwoh with a deep purple honorary doctoral hood. “He has dedicated his professional career to building multiethnic and multiracial coalitions and advocating on behalf of historically underrepresented and underserved communities.”

Delivering an inspiring address, Kwoh recounted how Advancing Justice - LA successfully challenged racially discriminatory employment practices and unfair immigration laws. The organization has also advocated for stronger protections for low-wage workers, immigrants and victims of hate crimes.

Kwoh urged the graduating students to go into the world and fight for social justice, fulfilling Cal State LA’s mission of engagement and service for the public good. He quoted Martin Luther King Jr.: “Every person must decide whether he or she will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

“So I ask you today, join our causes, keep hope alive, join us to lift up the spirit of immigrants,” he added. “And help us fight for justice for all.”                     

Kwoh founded Advancing Justice - LA’s Leadership Development in Interethnic Relations program, which has trained more than 1,000 community leaders in collaboration with African American, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander and LGBTQ communities. His community coalition efforts have also focused on improving higher education opportunities. In 2015, Advancing Justice-LA launched College for All, a multiracial, cross-sector coalition that has championed reinvestment in public higher education to promote greater access, affordability and equity.

Raised in Los Angeles, Kwoh earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles and a Juris Doctor from the UCLA School of Law. He serves as an adjunct faculty member at UCLA, where he teaches an “Asian Americans and the Law” course in the Department of Asian American Studies.  

Kwoh has been honored with numerous awards in recognition of his public service, including a prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, a Liberty Hill Foundation Changemaker Award and a Civic Medal of Honor from the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. He was named Lawyer of the Year by California Lawyer magazine and received an Alumni of the Year for Public and Community Service Award from the UCLA School of Law.

Photo: Honorary doctorate recipient Stewart Kwoh delivered an inspiring keynote address at Commencement 2018. (Credit: Anibal Ortiz/Cal State LA)

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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 28,000 students and has more than 245,000 distinguished alumni.

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