California State University, San Bernardino has announced the creation of the highest recognition by the university to be bestowed by the campus on a non-attendee or non-graduate, the President’s Medal. The first-ever recipient will be Richard “Cheech” Marin.
The award will be presented at the President’s Dinner on Nov. 30, at the Mission Inn in Riverside.
The President’s Medal is awarded in recognition of an individual’s extraordinary achievements to a field, profession or our nation, and/or to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the wellbeing of others. The recipients have not attended and/or are not graduates of CSUSB. The university’s leadership and alumni regard the CSUSB President’s Medal as evidence of genuine eminent distinction.
“Mr. Marin was selected because of his accomplishments as an actor, author of children’s books and a preeminent collector of Chicano art,” said CSUSB’s president, Tomás D. Morales. “His recent partnership with the Riverside Art Museum to establish The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture of the Riverside Art Museum is having a huge positive impact right here in the Inland Empire.”
Morales observed that “The Cheech,” as the museum is affectionately named, has already become a cultural icon and destination.
“I am incredibly honored by this recognition from CSUSB,” said Marin, praising the university’s impact as a Hispanic-Serving and Minority-Serving Institution serving San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
“Institutions like CSUSB are building the future of our diverse California,” he said. “I am proud to be associated with them. And I hope they organize a lot of field trips to The Cheech, which is in their own backyard!”
Best known as one half of the hilariously irreverent, satirical, counter-culture, no-holds-barred duo Cheech and Chong, Marin is a multi-generational star. To this day, Cheech and Chong films remain favorite weekend film rentals, and Marin is widely acknowledged as a cultural icon. His memoir, entitled “Cheech is Not My Real Name…But Don’t Call Me Chong!,” was released in 2017.
Marin was born in South Central Los Angeles and met Tommy Chong in Vancouver, British Columbia as a political refugee. The duo moved back to Los Angeles and proved to be “entertainment gold.” Six of their albums went gold, four were nominated for Grammys and “Los Cochinos” won the 1973 Grammy for Best Comedy Recording. The critically acclaimed duo made a fluid transition to films, starring in eight features together.
During his split with Chong, Marin wrote, directed and starred in the comedy “Born In East L.A. He appeared in over 20 films, including his scene-stealing role in “Tin Cup.” He has been a television staple from many years ranging from Don Johnson’s “Nash Bridges” to “Lost” and “Jane the Virgin.”
Through his popular Disney Pixar animation film roles (“Oliver & Company,” “The Lion King,” “Cars and more) and as an author of children’s books, such as “Cheech the School Bus Driver,” Marin is also a favorite with kids and parents around the world.
Marin is recognized today as a preeminent Chicano art advocate. In the mid-1980s, he began developing what is now arguably the finest private collection of Chicano art. Much of it formed the core of his inaugural exhibition, “Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge,” which broke attendance records during its groundbreaking 15‐city tour during 2001‐2007 to major art museums across the U.S. He said, “Chicano art is American art. My goal is to bring the term ‘Chicano’ to the forefront of the art world.”
Following the success of Chicano Visions, over a dozen additional exhibitions drawn from the Cheech Marin Collection have toured more than 50 major art museums across the U.S. and Europe under the direction of Melissa Richardson Banks. In addition, art books have been independently published to accompany many of these exhibitions, including “Papel Chicano: Works on Paper from the Collection of Cheech Marin,” “Chicanitas: Small Paintings from the Cheech Marin Collection,” and “Papel Chicano Dos: Works on Paper from the Collection of Cheech Marin.” Artwork from his collection inspires his work in other ways. For example, the bottle design of Tres Papalote Mezcal, for which Marin serves as the brand ambassador, was inspired by the contemporary glass sculptures and other works of Einar and Jamex de la Torre, two brothers who are represented in his collection.
Marin’s goal to introduce Chicano art to a wider audience has led to the present moment. The Cheech is the result of his partnership with the city of Riverside and the Riverside Art Museum. The Cheech, which opened on June 18, serves as the permanent home for his more than 700 works of Chicano art, including paintings, sculptures and photography. Collectively, it is the most renowned Chicano art collection in the United States and already a must-visit location in the Inland Empire.
Marin is a nationally ranked golfer, active in the charity circuit. Married to Russian-born classical pianist Natasha Marin, the couple resides in Pacific Palisades, Calif.