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Berkeleyan

Haas Awards are a Cal Day highlight
Indonesian economist, community activist take top alumni honors

| 16 April 2003

 

haas awardee

Armando de la Libertad, right, wearing the Haas public-service medal awarded him by Chancellor Berdahl, was honored at a Cal Day luncheon in the Morrison Library. Among those celebrating the occasion were Mimi and Peter Haas, front, benefactors of the award.
Peg Skorpinski photo

Two Berkeley alumni were honored on Cal Day with the prestigious Haas Awards, one recognizing an international alumnus and the other home-grown public service. Each of this year’s honorees took inspiration as well as education from his years here, and each is pursuing his life’s work halfway around the world from his counterpart.

Dorodjatun Kuntjoro-Jakti, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, received the Walter and Elise Haas International Award, celebrating contributions to “improving the quality of life for citizens across the globe.” Armando de la Libertad, vice president of Wells Fargo Bank, won the Peter E. Haas Public Service Award, honoring an alumnus who affects change at the grassroots level through public service in the United States.

Chancellor Robert Berdahl presented the awards, and the recipients each spoke at a Wheeler Hall ceremony on April 12. Dorodjatun, who was unable to leave his duties in Jakarta to accept the award, delivered his address via video, and his wife, Emiwaty, was in Berkeley to accept the honor.

Peter and Mimi Haas also attended the event. “The Haas family has been part of Cal for generations,” the chancellor noted. “They have supported and stood behind the Cal mission to public education in California in a great many ways.”

Political prisoner to cabinet minister
A native of Java, Indonesia, Dorodjatun Kuntjoro-Jakti came to Berkeley to earn an M.A. in financial administration in 1966, and he completed his Ph.D. in political economy in 1980. His career began on the faculty of his undergraduate alma mater, the University of Indonesia, and he soon became a key economic adviser in his country and region.

As an academic and a policy-maker, Dorodjatun’s outspoken opposition to the authoritarian regime of President Soeharto led him to become a political prisoner for 27 months in the 1970s. It also led to a ban on his foreign travel, which delayed the completion of his doctorate at Berkeley.

For his wife and three daughters, Dorodjatun said, “the Haas Award undoubtedly gives a boost to their spirit, in the midst of the tiring life of living in a ‘glass house’ in the rapidly changing Indonesia. They all have experienced the difficulties, the risks, and even the dangers of living that kind of life.”

Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most-populous country and third-largest democracy, is 90-percent Islamic, spans three-and-a-half time zones, and has a population that speaks 2,000 dialects. Its acute financial crisis in 1998 created political turmoil, resulting in the rapid succession of four presidents.
Dorodjatun served as Indonesia’s ambassador to the United States from 1998-2001, charged with maintaining “the financial life-line” to his country from the U.S. and the International Monetary Fund. In August 2001, Indonesian President Megawati Soekarnoputri appointed him as her cabinet minister in charge of the economy.

Today, he says, the Indonesian government is working toward political, bureaucratic, economic, and legal reforms, including a bold scheme of decentralization, increasing participation in government and initiating regional fiscal control. In parallel, he works to manage the nation’s debt and has restructured banks, improved access to credit, and aims to reduce poverty.

Dorodjatun said he was “transformed dramatically” by his education at Berkeley, where he was “taught how to think, not what to think.”

“I was, in a way, a historical product of the Flower Generation, marked by its genuine social concern, strong political commitment, and courage to embark into unknown territory in life,” he said.

“I think many in Indonesia still feel irritated by my critical analysis of the problems facing the country and the people,” he added. “Up to now I am tolerated, I think, because I always try to be forthright and yet polite — the Berkeley way.”

Developing communities, students
Public-service-award recipient Armando de la Libertad earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Berkeley in 1993, followed by a master’s in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

He says it was performing volunteer work with students at Berkeley High School during his time at Cal that opened his eyes to the diversity of economic and educational needs in California’s communities. He joined Wells Fargo Bank and the world of finance to work on community investment and lending programs to support community development. Focusing on Orange County, his work helped infuse neighborhoods with cash and build affordable housing. During his first year at Wells Fargo, he helped double the bank’s local economic-development investment portfolio.

He is also bolstering educational opportunities as chair of the Orange County Hispanic Education Endowment Fund, a solely volunteer effort that has awarded nearly 500 need- and merit-based college scholarships, drawing from a growing endowment of $1.6 million. He recently won the Giraffe Award from the Santa Ana Unified School District for “sticking his neck out” for the students and families of Orange County.

Noting that public service helps us “be part of something that is larger than ourselves,” de la Libertad added that his work also “helps me address educational obstacles that were sometimes placed in front of me during my childhood — counselors that didn’t encourage me, the one teacher that underestimated my educational potential, the limited education of my parents and their limited ability (not desire) to help me academically beyond sixth grade.”

De la Libertad, who continues to serve the campus on the board of Berkeley’s Engineering Alumni Society, offered a word of advice to Berkeley students: “We are all so busy these days. Some of us may serve the public through our day-to-day work, others may not. Only you can choose the extent to which you will serve. . . . I’d recommend that you define this balance before you launch your career.”