November 20, 1998
Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, associate director for arts and humanities at the Rockefeller Foundation, has been awarded the Joseph Henry Medal by the Smithsonian Institution's Board of Regents for "exemplary contributions to the Smithsonian Institution."
With a distinguished career as professor of arts and humanities, linguist, foundation executive and educator, Ybarra-Frausto has devoted much of his professional life to encouraging diverse communities in the United States to better understand and appreciate each other's art and culture, values and traditions.
He donated his collections of Mexican and Chicano prints to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Art and his literary archives of the Chicano Movement to the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art. These donations, according to the Medal's citation, "provided the American people with new ways to share the spirit and beauty of Mexican and U.S. Latino art and literature."
Ybarra-Frausto's contribution to the Smithsonian include giving of his time and expertise. He served as chair of the Smithsonian Council and the Latino Oversight Committee, and was a member of the National Museum of American History's Latino Initiative Advisory Board. He also served as advisor to the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and supported numerous exhibitions and other initiatives at the Smithsonian.
As chair of the Latino Oversight Committee (1995-1997), he helped to shape the Smithsonian Center for Latino Initiatives, which organizes and coordinates Latino-related research, collections, and educational and exhibition programs. In each of his roles at the Smithsonian, Ybarra-Frausto showed, says the citation, "a passionate commitment to the training and education of minority graduate students and young professionals who are pursuing careers in the museum field and in arts and humanities."
The Joseph Henry Medal was created in honor of the Smithsonian's first Secretary, shortly after his death in 1878. It is given by the Board of Regents in recognition of outstanding service to the Institution. Among the previous recipients were Fred Whipple, Hubert Humphrey, Mary Ripley, Daniel Moynihan and Sidney Yates.