NCAN’s 2017 Champion of College Access: Fidel Vargas

September 17, 2017

By Elizabeth Morgan, Director of External Relations

Fidel Vargas won the Bob Craves Champion of College Access Award on Sept. 13 at NCAN’s 22nd annual conference in San Diego, CA.

Mr. Vargas is President and CEO of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF). After serving on HSF’s Board of Directors from January 2010 through December 2012, he assumed leadership of the organization in January 2013.  Mr. Vargas sets HSF’s overall direction; develops and oversees the execution of strategy; leads the senior management team; plays an active, leadership role in development and outreach activities for all constituencies; and advocates for HSF, throughout the country.

NCAN’s annual Champion Award honors individuals, organizations, or corporations that have made remarkable, long-term contributions to increasing college access and success for underrepresented students.

This year’s award recognizes Mr. Vargas’s extraordinary dedication to HSF and its mission to empower Latino families with the knowledge and resources to successfully complete a higher education, while providing scholarships and support services to as many exceptional Hispanic American students as possible.

HSF strives to make college education a top priority for every Latino family across the nation, mobilizing the community to proactively advance that goal – each individual, over a lifetime, in every way they can. HSF also seeks to give its Scholars all the tools they need to do well in their coursework, graduate, enter a profession, excel, help lead our nation going forward, and mentor the generations to come. As the nation’s largest not-for-profit organization supporting Hispanic American higher education, HSF has awarded more than $500 million in scholarships and provides a range of impactful programs for students, HSF Scholars, Alumni, and parents. 

HSF is not an NCAN member, but it is located in California. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has also chosen HSF to administer its next-generation college scholarship for underrepresented students, which will launch in the fall of 2017 under the name Gates Scholarship Program. This program may be an opportunity for greater interaction with NCAN. 

Prior to joining HSF, Mr. Vargas was a founding partner of Centinela Capital Partners, an alternative asset management firm that invested nearly $1 billion in and alongside leading emerging private equity and venture capital funds. Prior to joining Centinela, Mr. Vargas was a founding principal and managing director of Reliant Equity Investors, a private equity investment firm investing in lower-middle market companies. At the age of 23, Mr. Vargas became the country’s youngest elected mayor of a major city: Baldwin Park, California, with a population of 85,000, 20 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Mr. Vargas has served on a number of public and private sector boards and commissions, including: the New America Alliance; Sponsors for Educational Opportunities; Operation Hope, Inc.; President Clinton’s Advisory Council on Social Security; President Bush’s Commission on Strengthening Social Security; and Presidents Bush and Obama’s Commission on Presidential Scholars. He currently serves on the boards of the California Community Foundation, the Latino Donor Collaborative, and The Los Angeles Theatre Center. 

Mr. Vargas graduated with honors from Harvard University with an A.B. in Social Studies. He received his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, with a concentration in Entrepreneurship and General Management. 

Mr. Vargas is the eldest of eight children and has three adult children. His parents emigrated from Mexico. His father, Fidel B. Vargas worked as a carpenter and his mother, Margarita Vargas raised her family and began a career as a community organizer after Fidel left for college and continues to serve her community as a local elected official. Fidel’s brothers and sisters attended the University of California at Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley, George Washington University, La Verne University, and Brown University. He has a deep commitment to HSF, having been a six-time, HSF scholarship recipient.

The Champion Award is named for Bob Craves, a founding officer of Costco and co-founder of the College Success Foundation, who died in 2014 and was a longtime advocate for students who have been historically underserved in higher education in Washington State and Washington, D.C. The NCAN Board of Directors selects the annual award-winner. Past winners include:

  • 2016: Kellie Dean, President and CEO, Dean Transportation, Inc., Lansing, MI
  • 2015: Dr. Donald Pemberton, Take Stock in Children, Miami, FL 
  • 2014: Vince Roig, Founder, Helios Education Foundation, Phoenix, AZ
  • 2013: Randal Boyd, Founder, tnAchieves, Knoxville, TN
  • 2012: Timothy and Bernadette Marquez, Founders, Denver Scholarship Foundation, Denver, CO 
  • 2011: Bob Craves and Ann Ramsay-Jenkins, Founders, College Success Foundation, Washington, D.C. and Issaquah, WA
  • 2010: Dr. Irving Fradkin, Founder, Dollars for Scholars, St. Paul, MN
  • 2009: Citi Foundation, New York, NY 
  • 2008: Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts

Communications Manager Allie Ciarmella contributed to this report.

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