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Campus Media Relations Director Accepts Harvard Post

By Fernando Quintero, Public Affairs
Posted June 9, 1999

Jesús Mena

Jesús Mena

A campus farewell reception in Jesús Mena's honor well be held Thursday, June 17, from 4 to 6 p.m. in Senior Hall. Members of the campus community are invited to attend.

When Jesús Mena was named director of the campus' media relations office, he became the nation's first Latino to head the public affairs office of a major research university. Headlines in the local press announced "Latino to head UC-Berkeley's PR Office" and "Ex-migrant Worker is University Officer."

But as reporters and the campus community soon learned, Mena brought much more than diversity to the top echelons of university administration. He brought a high level of competence and leadership.

His talents did not go unnoticed.

Mena, 50, will leave his post later this month to serve as director of communications and public affairs at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he will lead the development and implementation of the Kennedy School's communications strategy, including media relations and publications.

"Many in my shoes would have had no second thoughts about accepting a job like this from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government," said Mena. "It was a difficult decision because I have sunk deep roots in the Berkeley campus community and in the city itself. I will always treasure my experiences at Berkeley. They have given me the breadth I will need for the challenges ahead."

"Jesús has served our campus and community with distinction for the past eleven years," said Matthew Lyon, assistant vice chancellor for public affairs. "As campus spokesman for much of that time he has answered more questions than many people face in a lifetime, and has done so with grace and aplomb.

"His voice and friendship will be missed at Berkeley, and no doubt his leadership will become as valued at Harvard in days to come as it has been here for years," Lyon added.

A former migrant worker who picked crops from Wisconsin to Oklahoma, Menagraduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a BA in chemistry. After stints as an air pollution researcher and an aviation mechanic, he became a freelance writer. His writing led to his admission in 1982 to the Institute for Journalism Education, a summer-long program formerly housed at North Gate Hall for minority students aspiring to journalism careers.

In September 1988, Mena joined Berkeley's Public Affairs office as a senior public information representative covering the sciences. Previously, he had worked for six years as a reporter at various newspapers including the Oakland Tribune, where he covered science and healthcare issues, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, the Orange County Register and the Brownsville (Texas) Herald.

In 1992, following the retirement of veteran Berkeley public information director Ray Colvig, Mena was named acting director. Six months later, he became director of public information. Over the years, the title was changed to director of media relations.

During his tenure as campus spokesman, Mena faced many campus crises. He and his staff fielded media calls during such memorable events as the East Bay fire, protests at People's Park and the dismantling of affirmative action.

Besides handling breaking news, Mena and his staff got the word out to reporters worldwide about the newsworthy accomplishments of Berkeley's faculty, students and staff.

"As director of the Public Information Office, Jesús strongly guarded its reputation as one of the best news offices in the country," said Robert Sanders, senior public information officer and science editor who has worked with Mena since1991. "He always stood up for honest and straightforward dealings with the media, and that strategy has served the university well. We're losing a good and trusted friend."

Marie Felde, former assistant director of public affairs at Berkeley who now assists Chancellor Berdahl with communications, will serve as interim director of media relations during the summer months.



June 9 - July 13, 1999 (Volume 27, Number 35)
Copyright 1999, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the
Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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