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CONTACT: Bruce Smith
Public Information Officer
(310) 434-4209
DATE: June 14, 2006


Santa Monica College dance professor Judith Douglas – who has had a long and distinguished career as a dancer, choreographer and teacher – has been named the recipient of the first José Luis Nazar Chair of Excellence in the Performing Arts.

“I cannot think of a more worthy recipient of this chair of excellence,” said SMC President Dr. Chui L. Tsang in announcing the winner at SMC’s graduation ceremony Tuesday (June 13). Tsang was joined by Lori Sayer, Nazar’s corporate managing director, in congratulating Douglas.

Douglas receives $5,000 a year for each of the next three years to be used for projects of her choice that will enhance the dance curriculum. She plans to use the funds to conduct a three-year project to create an up-to-date comprehensive and diverse dance program. She plans to consult with top dance schools from throughout the nation, including UCLA and New York University, and to establish a residency program in which top artists from such esteemed companies as Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey and American Ballet Theatre would come to SMC to teach extended master courses. Commercial dancers such as Chita Rivera, Paula Abdul and Rita Moreno would also be invited to discuss dance careers in film and video.

The award was funded by a grant from entrepreneur and arts and education supporter Nazar.

This is the seventh chair of excellence established at SMC. The others are in physical science, biology, earth science, music, art and nursing. Such awards – unique for a community college – are administered by the SMC Foundation and are named for their primary benefactors.

Douglas has taught at Santa Monica College for 32 years and has performed ballet, African, Mexican and tap dance throughout the U.S. and Mexico, both on stage and on television.

She is the founder and co-director of Folklórico de SMC, the acclaimed multicultural SMC student dance company that has performed throughout California and Mexico. The company’s repertoire originally focused on Latin dances, but has expanded to include choreography from all over the globe, including Europe, the Middle East, Asia – and even American hip hop.

Douglas currently serves on the board of directors for the Association of National Groups of Mexican Dance, and she has studied and taught Mexican Dance at the University of Guadalajara, Mexico.

She has completed advanced board levels for Cecchetti ballet of the Imperial Society of Dance and has performed with UCLA’s African and Mexican dance ensembles.

She has made numerous stage and television appearances and has directed dance performances for the Los Angeles mayor’s office and for conferences of national and state college organizations.
Additionally she has served as panel judge for the past three Mexican dance competitions sponsored by the Amalia Hernandez National Ballet Folklórico of Mexico.

Douglas earned her bachelor’s degree from California State University at Northridge and her master’s from USC. At SMC, she serves as treasurer of the Academic Senate.

A born entrepreneur, Nazar began his business career by opening a dime store in 1966, at the age of 17, in Santiago, Chile with savings of Chilean pesos equal to $300. Six years later, he sold his store for 300 million Chilean pesos (which, because of runaway inflation, was again equal to $300) and immigrated to Miami. On his first night in the city, he slept in a park because he refused to pay $8 (8 million pesos) for a room at the YMCA.

Unable to find a "real job," Nazar sold English courses door-to-door to cover the cost of his college education. In 1976, he became a salesman at a small Miami publishing house that he acquired three years later for $20,000. Since he couldn't afford the proverbial garage, Nazar renamed the new enterprise Lexicon, and installed himself and his employees in a walk-in closet.

Based on his experience as a poor immigrant, Nazar developed a self-taught English course that became an international bestseller. Today, Inglés sin Barreras is a household name in the Hispanic world, while Lexicon employs more than 1,000 people and generates revenues of more than $120 million a year. Nazar recently sold a substantial interest in Lexicon.

Nazar has contributed substantially to many charitable institutions that support a wide variety of ethnic groups.

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