Philadelphia Icon Nelson Diaz Shares from His Memoir at October Dean’s Forum

Retired Judge Nelson Diaz LAW ’73 returned to North Broad Street at the invitation of Dean Gregory N. Mandel to share from his memoir, No Soy de Aqui ni de Alla (Not from Here, Not from There), with the Temple Law community.

Diaz’ career has been a litany of firsts: first Puerto Rican student to graduate from Temple Law School, which he did in 1972; first Puerto Rican lawyer to be admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar, in 1973; and first Latino judge in Pennsylvania history, as a member of the Court of Common Pleas from 1981-1993. As a law student, Judge Diaz was part of a group that confronted the Temple Law administration on policies that unfairly impacted underrepresented students, ultimately securing the resignation of the Dean and a commitment to diversity among both faculty and students. That commitment has borne fruit, both through the recruitment of more women and faculty of color and the establishment of a student organization that evolved into today’s BLSA.

Even today, Diaz, who sits on the Board of Trustees for Temple University, sees himself as “the conscience of the Board,” noting that “if God has put me in a place, I have to be true to that place.”

Diaz talked about the timeliness of his story for those who struggle today, encouraging those who are coming from working class and immigrant families to persist even when their path is uncharted. “Set your goal, just keep doing it, and the opportunities will come,” he said. He also encouraged all students to become leaders in their communities, especially where there was great need. He recalled a previous mentor challenging him to do the same thing, and issued that challenge to the audience: “How can you just walk away?”