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Román Hernández

Attorney and science alum awarded Alumni Legacy Award for civil rights advocacy

By Srila Nayak

Román D. Hernández (’92) received the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Alumni Legacy Award on the occasion of OSU's 39th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration.

Román D. Hernández (’92), an alumnus of the College of Science, received the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Alumni Legacy Award on the occasion of the 39th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration on Monday, January 18, 2021 at Oregon State University. A nationally recognized attorney specializing in labor and employment law and commercial litigation, Hernández is the Office Managing Partner at Troutman Pepper’s Portland office.

The award recognizes alumni who have demonstrated a deep and abiding commitment to causes of social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion and who exemplify and enrich OSU’s values of community, diversity, respect and social responsibility in their broader community or organization.

“I am deeply honored to have received this award from OSU, an institution that I love. And to have received it during OSU’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, makes it that much more meaningful,” said Hernández.

Hernández’s award citation commends his commitment to the values of diversity, equity and social justice throughout his career as an attorney. His nomination states, “Over the years, Román has reached out to young racial and ethnic minority students from middle school to high school to encourage them to pursue their education, including pursuing a legal education. By recalling his own background of socioeconomic disadvantage and hardship, he inspires them to achieve their educational goals and to know that nothing is beyond their grasp.”

“I am deeply honored to have received this award from OSU, an institution that I love. And to have received it during OSU’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, makes it that much more meaningful."

Hernández graduated from OSU with a co-major in general science, emphasizing biological sciences, and aerospace studies. Before taking up law studies at Lewis and Clark Law School (Portland), Hernández, who attended OSU on an ROTC scholarship, served for nearly five years in the Air Force. He was honorably discharged at the rank of Captain. Inspired by a JAG officer, the first Latino lawyer he had known, Hernández decided to pursue a degree in law.

Hernández successfully battled tremendous challenges on his journey towards an outstanding legal career. He is the youngest of eight children of migrant farm workers from Mexico who worked in Michigan and Ohio before settling in Oregon. Hernández and his siblings grew up near Ontario, a city in far eastern Oregon bordering Idaho. Although his mother and father had no formal education, they inspired all their children to study and go to college.

Hernández’s rise to the top ranks of his profession is a testament to his courage, determination and perseverance. An American Bar Association profile of Hernández notes, “He would spend 10 hours a day harvesting onion – a labor-intensive task that involves bending over or kneeling and using sharp knives to cut the leafy tops from the onions. The intense summer heat could reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and Román’s hands still bear the scars from the knives used in the harvest. It was “piece work” and he was paid as little as 10 cents a bushel for his work.”

Hernández was able to realize his college dreams when he was awarded financial aid to attend Treasure Valley Community College. He was on the Dean’s List multiple times at TVCC before transferring to OSU. His Air Force ROTC scholarship from OSU enabled him to attend university where he did well academically. Hernandez was the only Hispanic-American ROTC cadet at OSU in the Professional Officer Corps (the upper division cadets).

Hernández was named to the Lawyers of Color Nation’s Best List in recognition of his career accomplishments and commitment to diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. He was also recognized in The Best Lawyers in America in the categories of employment-law management and for litigation-labor and employment law.

Hernández has garnered several accolades and awards for his professional achievements, service, leadership and lifetime commitment to social justice and civil rights in Oregon and beyond.

He received the American Bar Association’s 2021 Spirit of Excellence Award, which honors those who have achieved excellence and supported others within their legal careers. He also received the Distinguished Business Law Graduate Award from his alma mater, Lewis and Clark Law School; the Diversity and Inclusion Champion Award from Oregon State Bar; the Civil Rights Champion Award from the Oregon League of Minority Voters; among other honors.

He served as the Oregon Community Foundation’s (OCF) Board of Directors and was named the Hispanic National Bar Association’s 2017 Latino Lawyer of the Year. Hernández has spearheaded equity and inclusion reforms in several Oregon organizations and foundations. He served as the first-ever Chair of OCF’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Board Committee which developed and assisted the organization in applying an “equity lens” to its work.

Hernández has been selected to serve in influential and high-profile positions during his career. He is a former Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Portland Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, one of the 12 banks that comprise the central banking system of the United States. Through his six-year Federal Reserve service, Hernández helped develop the nation’s monetary policy. He served as the National President of the Hispanic National Bar Association that represents the interests of 100,000 Hispanic attorneys, judges, law students, and paralegals throughout the United States.