The Sernas

Joe Serna Jr.

Joe Serna Jr.
Sacramento Mayor &
Government Professor
9/3/1939 – 11/7/1999

As Sacramento's activist mayor, Joe Serna Jr. brought the same passion for change and empowerment for the disadvantaged to City Hall that guided his distinguished career as a university professor.The son of farm workers, Joe, along with his two brothers and sister, was raised in impoverished farm labor camps near Lodi, California. Together with his family, Joe labored in the fields with a variety of crops, from wine grapes to sugar beets.Joe completed high school and attended Sacramento City College. He transferred to California State University, Sacramento and graduated in 1966. He joined the United Farm Workers and married his first wife, Evelyn, who convinced him to join the Peace Corps. His Peace Corps service convinced him of the importance of becoming active in politics and government.Returning to Sacramento, Joe began decades of service as a professor of government at Sac State, community activist, city council member, and mayor. He was elected to the Sacramento City Council in 1981, the same year he married his second wife, Isabel Hernandez Serna.When he was elected mayor in 1992, Joe set a busy tone at City Hall, establishing an activist agenda from an office having little constitutional power. Re-elected in 1996, Joe implemented the theme of his second mayoral campaign: "Everyone reads. Everyone works. Everyone votes." He launched a movement to reform Sacramento's public schools, rallying citywide support and electing a new school board.A complex man deeply grounded in family roots, Joe Serna died of kidney cancer in November 1999.


Dr. Isabel Hernandez Serna

Dr. Isabel Hernandez Serna
University Administrator &
Ethnic Studies Professor
10/12/1945 – 9/18/2000

Dr. Isabel Hernandez Serna was born in the southern Spanish province of Almeria. Her mother, Rosa, was an American citizen and her father, Juan, supported the Republican forces that battled fascist Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War.Facing hard times in post-World War II Spain, the Hernandez family moved to California when Isabel was 10 and settled in Vacaville. Isabel labored in the nearby tree fruit orchards and packing sheds.After attending Sacramento City College, Isabel earned a bachelor's degree at Sac State in Latin American literature in 1970, a second master's degree in English as a Second Language from Stanford University in 1976 and a Ph.D. in bilingual/bicultural education and sociolinguistics from Stanford in 1980.Isabel was part of the generation that created the Educational Equity Program for poor and minority students at Sac State. She joined the Sac State faculty in 1970 to teach in the Spanish Department. Later she moved to the School of Education and in 1986 was appointed Associated Professor of Ethnic Studies. She also served as Director of Outreach Services at Sac State from 1988 to 1994 and as Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs from 1994 to 1999.As a top administrator, Isabel initiated many innovative programs at Sac State that opened doors and encouraged students from all backgrounds to continue their education. She served on numerous boards and commissions, and was the recipient of numerous awards for her service to the community.A respected citizen leader, Dr. Isabel Hernandez Serna died of breast cancer in September 2000.