Given to an alumna/alumnus who has graduated within the previous 20 years, the Luminary Award—its name inspired by the definition of “luminary” as someone who inspires or lights the way for others—recognizes those who have inspirational success in their careers, in their communities, and in their impact on others’ lives.
2019 Luminary Award Recipient
Abel Rodríguez, JD (’01)
After alumnus Abel Rodríguez, JD (‘01) returned to his alma mater as an Assistant Professor of Religion, Law, and Social Justice, he reflected on Cabrini’s ongoing presence in his life. “Long after I left this campus, I continued to carry Cabrini, and the lessons it instilled, with me,” said Rodríguez, a first-generation college graduate and the son of immigrant parents from Cuba. “For me, this place was formative and transformative. Each academic achievement, each step in my professional path is rooted in my foundation here.” Rodríguez’s work as an advocate for immigrants began more than 15 years ago as a volunteer at Annunciation House, a nonprofit house of hospitality located on the U.S.-Mexico border. He went on to earn a Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he was a Toll Public Interest Scholar and received an award for exemplary pro bono service. He also earned a Master of Theological Studies at Harvard University and a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies at Stanford University. An authority and frequent speaker on issues of immigration law and policy, the intersection of criminal and immigration law and religion and law, Rodríguez was named Cabrini’s founding Director of the Center on Immigration in 2017. The academic, nonpartisan organization promotes immigrant rights through research, education, and advocacy.
As Director, he facilitates educational forums, fosters interdisciplinary research among scholars, and engages university communities in advocacy related to immigrant rights. He furthers the work of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by developing robust initiatives that promote justice for immigrant communities. Rodríguez has led campus-wide symposiums, offers continuing workshops that empower students to “Know Your Rights” when encountering police or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and organized trips to Washington, DC, and the Berks County Detention Center.
Rodríguez also continues to practice law, representing low-income clients in immigration proceedings, and serves on the Board of Directors for ACLAMO Family Centers, a nonprofit organization serving the Latinx community in Norristown, PA.
Before joining Cabrini, Rodríguez held a split position as the Immigration Specialist at the Defender Association of Philadelphia and Staff Attorney at Nationalities Service Center, advising noncitizen clients on immigration and deportation issues. He also represented individuals with disabilities and older adults in immigration matters as the Langer, Grogan, and Diver Fellow in Social Justice at Esperanza Immigration Legal Services. He has taught the immigration clinic at Temple University Beasley School of Law, political science at La Salle University, and Spanish language and culture at the University of Pennsylvania.
The many accolades Rodríguez has earned include the Superhero Award from United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, Alumni Hall of Fame from Montgomery County Community College, Distinguished Achievement Award from Cabrini University, and Honorary Membership to Delta Epsilon Sigma. Earlier this year, Rodríguez received Cabrini’s Distinguished Faculty Award for External Service in recognition of his unwavering dedication and commitment to serving the greater good. The University also honors him with the 2019 Luminary Award, for which he is the perfect example, persistently lighting the way for others through his teaching, law practice, and social justice work.