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Photo by Bill Gillette
Don Villarejo became active in civic affairs in 1955, successively participating in the student, civil rights and peace movements. In 1960, he was a founding editor of New University Thought, one of the first publications of the New Left, serving as Chair of the Board of Editors until 1965. In 1967-68, he participated in the preparation of protests at the 1968 National Democratic Party Convention in Chicago.
After several years of involvement in the Los Angeles peace movement, including founding the Indochina Work Group (dedicated to ending U.S. military intervention in Vietnam), he joined the eight-member National Standing Committee of the Indochina Peace Campaign in 1972, representing the Pacific Region, a position he held until the conclusion of the U.S. involvement in 1975.
He served as volunteer with the farmworkers movement in 1976 and, after the conclusion of this work, founded the California Institute for Rural Studies (CIRS) in 1977, serving as Executive Director until his retirement from that position in 1999. CIRS is a private, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to helping create a rural California that is socially just, economically viable and ecologically balanced.
His professional career has been multi-disciplinary, starting with a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chicago in 1967. He joined the faculty of the Physics Department at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1968, serving until 1975, and then taught at the University of California, Davis, for several years until switching careers subsequent to the founding of CIRS. Dr. Villarejo's experience as a research physicist, particularly analytical and quantitative skills, proved to be invaluable preparation for his subsequent career as a researcher interested in agricultural economies and rural societies.
Dr. Villarejo has served as a consultant for numerous public and private agencies, including the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, California State Assembly (Office of Research), California Department of Industrial Relations, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Reclamation, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, California Rural Legal Assistance, International Brotherhood of Teamsters (Locals 601 and 890), and Migrant Legal Action Program, among others.
He has received a number of awards in recognition of his service, most recently the 2000 National Service Award of the Office of Migrant Health (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services) for "Exemplary commitment, dedication and service to the nation's migrant farm workers."
Dr. Villarejo's publication, Suffering in Silence (November 2000), was cited by The California Endowment as the primary motivating factor in its recently announced $50 million commitment in new grants to provide health services for hired farm workers in California.
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