NEWS RELEASE, 07/01/98

Latin American education reformer and UC Berkeley alumna wins Haas International Award

By José Rodríguez

BERKELEY -- A Venezuelan educator and reformer who promoted the teaching of science and technology has been awarded the Haas International Award, which recognizes outstanding international contributions by an alumnus of the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Laura Castillo Gurfinkel has served in a variety of posts in her native Venezuela, including as minister of education. She spearheaded changes in the curriculum emphasizing better education in modern advanced technology, along with a financial commitment for classroom and laboratory equipment.

Because Venezuela's primary revenue source is petroleum, the nation has been striving to diversify its economy and prepare its citizens to take on careers to help the country move in that direction.

Castillo Gurfinkel was born into a family deeply rooted in Venezuela and graduated from the Instituto Pedagógico de Caracas. She was a biological science teacher prior to attending UC Berkeley, where she graduated in 1964 with a Master's degree in physiology.

During her graduate studies, she conducted research to examine how the brain develops and how this development can be influenced by internal and external factors. Among the factors she examined was high altitude - a condition frequent in Venezuela.

She is married to another UC Berkeley alumnus, Mariano Gurfinkel, and continues to maintain strong connections with her graduate colleagues who are now professionals in the United States and abroad.

The Elise and Walter A. Haas International Award was established in 1964 by Mr. and Mrs.Walter A. Haas, Jr.; Mr. and Mrs. Peter E. Haas; and Mr. and Mrs. Richard N. Goldman. The award recognizes an alumnus of the University of California who is a native, citizen and resident of a nation other than the United States and who has a distinguished record of service to his or her country.

The award includes a cash prize of $10,000 U.S., a medal, and travel expenses for the recipient and family to come to the UC Berkeley campus for a public awards ceremony.

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