There are few educators in the United States and indeed the world who have made that kind of educational impact that Leonard Baca has made. He is a scholar, teacher, mentor, and most importantly a family man.
Leonard was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the Duranes neighborhood.
After high school he attended Conception Seminary and received a BA and MA in Religious Education and a Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology (STB) from Catholic University. He later left the seminary and earned an MA in Special Education with an emphasis in mental retardation from the University of New Mexico, and an Ed.D in Special Education, non-categorical with an emphasis in administration from the University of Northern Colorado.
After receiving his PhD Leonard became a professor of education at the University of
Colorado, Boulder. As a professor, Leonard invented a new field of education, the field is Bilingual Special Education, which earned him distinction as the grandfather of Bilingual Special Education. His work in this area is so original and so well respected that it is still cited by scholars and practitioners 40 years after its creation. To say that Leonard is a prolific scholar and writer is an understatement. He has authored or
co-authored nine books, 55 peer reviewed research articles, 46 technical reports on research and training projects and has chaired 85 dissertation committees. His most best known book, “The Bilingual Special Education Interface,” has been through three updates and is still considered must reading for any student interested in Bilingual Special Education.
His career in academia alone would qualify him for the recognition that La Cosecha is giving him, however he considers his greatest achievement to be the BUENO Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Colorado, Boulder.In 1976 Leonard founded the BUENO Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Colorado, Boulder and continues to be the Executive Director. The BUENO Center stands for Bilingües unidos para la educación y nuevas oportunidades(Bilinguals United for Education and New Opportunities) and has as its mission research, training and service. Leonard’s goal for this Center was to open the doors of higher education to populations who have historically been underrepresented in higher education and who have not had the resources or guidance to pursue formal education whether at the GED level or the Ph.D. level. Thanks largely to Leonard’s vision, inspiration, hard work and grant writing skills, the BUENO Center has generated over $100 million in research, training and service projects over its 40-year history. Thanks to BUENO Center projects over 30,000 migrant workers in Colorado have earned GEDs, over 350 students have benefitted from the College Assistance Migrant Program, over 225 para-professionals have earned teaching credentials, over 2,000 students have earned Master’s degrees and over 200 students have earned Ph.Ds. BUENO graduates include teachers, policy makers, doctors, lawyers, dentists, professors and school superintendents. BUENO graduates are not only academically prepared because of BUENO mentoring, they are also informed advocates and prepared to assume leadership positions in many arenas of public education and society. Leonard leads by example and those who were fortunate enough to learn from and with him know that they are not only smarter as a result of their association with him and the BUENO Center, but they are better human beings. Leonard is married to Eleanor Baca, and together they have five daughters and thirteen grandchildren. Since 1976 the BUENO Center, with Leonard’s leadership, has been the major source of knowledge production, support for student scholarships and development of the next generation of educators for the ever-growing numbers of emerging bilingual students and their families in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Region. Through the establishment of the BUENO Policy Center and the myriad of BUENO projects, Leonard’s leadership and legacy will continue to grow and thrive.