January 26, 2010
TO THE CAMPUS COMMUNITY
I am deeply saddened to share with you the news that Professor Luis Leal passed away yesterday, at the age of 102. Professor Leal was a beloved member of our campus community and a scholar of tremendous international renown. With respect and affection, we called him "Don Luis." His contributions to our university and our society are a legacy that we will treasure always.
Many of you will remember the conference our campus hosted in 2007 in honor of Don Luis on the occasion of his 100th birthday. Scholars, colleagues, and former students from all parts of the globe joined us to pay tribute to the incredible breadth and depth of Don Luis's contributions to literature, culture, and education. It was a remarkable academic event and an unforgettable celebration. A wonderful film about his life and career, titled Luis Leal: A Journey of 100 Years, was featured at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in 2008.
Don Luis received countless accolades throughout his legendary career, including the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle in 1992 and the prestigious National Humanities Medal, presented to him by President Clinton at the White House in 1997. The Luis Leal Endowed Chair in Chicano Studies was established in his honor at UC Santa Barbara in 1995, and in 2000, the University of Illinois awarded Professor Leal a doctorate honoris causa. Don Luis was a prolific writer, with more than 45 books and 400 scholarly articles to his name. His intellect and humanity won him the sincere admiration not only of scholars in his own field, but of people from all disciplines and all walks of life.
Don Luis came to UC Santa Barbara in 1976 after retiring from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he had directed the dissertations of 44 doctoral candidates. In addition to teaching courses in our Spanish and Portuguese Department and in Chicano Studies, he was a research fellow at what was then known as our Center for Chicano Studies (now our Chicano Studies Institute) and served for three years as the Center's acting director. Our campus will forever be grateful for the senior leadership he provided during this pivotal time, and for his sustained devotion to fostering the growth of Chicana and Chicano Studies at UCSB.
Don Luis cared deeply about our students, and had a wonderful way of interacting with them. He was an inspiration to students and colleagues alike. In addition to his brilliant intellect, he will be remembered for his kindness, generosity, and humility, as well as for his joyful heart.
We feel so privileged to have known Don Luis as our colleague, teacher, mentor, and friend. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to his son, Tony, and his family, as well as to Don Luis's countless friends and colleagues around the world. In the weeks ahead we will be planning a special campus memorial to celebrate his life. In his honor, our campus flag will be lowered to half-staff tomorrow. We will dearly miss our wise elder, our sabio maestro.
Henry T. Yang