(LOS ANGELES) – Former Columbia University President Michael I. Sovern died this week. A legal scholar and civil rights champion, he helped establish the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and served on its board from 1969 to 1975.

Please attribute the following statement on his passing to Ambassador Vilma Martinez, who served as MALDEF president and general counsel from 1973 to 1982:

“Michael Sovern was a valued board member of MALDEF, and a guiding light during the organization’s early years.”