Dr. Henry Gradillas was born August 4, 1934 in Santa Barbara California. His father was born in Douglas, AZ, where he was also a professional boxer. He later moved to Southern California where he worked as a finish carpenter. His mother was a homemaker born in Chihuahua, MX. Henry grew up in the Barrios of East L. A. California. Because he spoke only Spanish as a child he flunked kindergarten. He quickly learned the English language and was able to continue his schooling with great success.
He went to elementary school at Murchinson Street, and Jr. High at Belvedere, both in East L.A.. He graduated Roosevelt High School where he had been very active in ROTC and achieved the highest honor – All City Cadet Colonel. He attended UC Davis where he graduated with a BS in Agronomy. At age 50 he returned to college and received his Doctorate in Education Specializing in Secondary Curriculum from BYU.
In 1971 he married Stephanie Crum and adopted her son Erik. They had two biological children, In 1991 his son Erik was killed in a car accident. He lost his wife, Stephanie, to a long illness in 1995. In 1997 he re-married. He married Gayle, a long time family friend who had three children of her own. Henry and Gayle now have 4 grandchildren.
Henry is best known for his role in the success of Jamie Escalante, the teacher portrayed in the Movie “Stand and Deliver.” However this is just one event in a long list of his achievements.
He was a Commissioner for the National Commission on Drug Free Schools with Secretary Lauro F. Cavazos and Dr. William J. Bennet as Co-Chairs under President Bush Sr., Special Consultant on the staff of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction with Dr. Bill Honig, Sacramento California, Principal at several other high schools in California and Michigan, a Motivational Speaker independently and for the College Board, Ranch Manager of a 960 Acre Fruit Tree business,still teaches and tutors at-risk kids. He served Honorably in the Military as a Regular Army Officer with Ranger, Airborne and Expert Competitive Marksmanship awards, leaving with the rank of Captain. This is just a short list of his life long list of achievements.
In 2006 Henry began a collaborative effort with Jerry Jesness to put his story and proven educational practices down in a book. The forward was written by Jaime Escalante who, to the great sadness of us all, passed away March 20, 2010.
He and his wife Gayle currently live on a beautiful lake in northern WI. He still finds teaching rewarding. One of his favorite things is hearing that former students are achieving their goals in life. He loves hearing from them as they grow and move on with their lives. For more information, please contact Henry Gradillas directly.