August 26, 2020

Dear Members of Our Campus Community,

I am saddened to share with you the news that Dr. Esperanza Jefferson, Lecturer Emerita in our Department of Spanish and Portuguese, passed away on August 9, 2020. For those in the campus community who knew her, took her classes, or had the pleasure of working with her, I extend my deepest condolences. We express our greatest sympathy to her siblings and family. Our campus flag will be lowered in her honor tomorrow, August 27.

While teaching at UC Santa Barbara, Dr. Jefferson served as a pillar of our community. Her mentorship of students cultivated both academic rigor and thoughtful engagement, always with kindness, and remains an inspiration to our campus. In remembrance of her work and life, I now gladly share the heartfelt tribute from Chair Silvia Bermúdez and our Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

Dr. Esperanza Jefferson (1943-2020)

Dr. Esperanza Jefferson (née Esperanza Zapata Rivera, 1943-2020), passed away Sunday morning August 9, 2020 at her younger brother’s home surrounded by family and loved ones after a long battle with health issues related to back problems. Born in 1943 in Monterrey, Mexico, Esperanza (Pera, as she was affectionately called), began her long and committed career in education in 1969 when she earned her degree in Pedagogy. In 1977 Esperanza received her Elementary Teaching Credentials, and her High School Teaching Credentials the following year.

In 1986, now residing in the California Central Coast after her marriage to her beloved husband, Dr. Gene Jefferson (Ph.D. Geology), Esperanza, a true trailblazer, continued her path as a “non-traditional student” by earning her AA in Bilingual/Cross-Cultural Studies from Ventura Community College. In 1988, luckily for all of us at the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and UCSB, she earned her BA in Spanish Studies. Most proudly, she earned her Ph.D. in 1999 under the supervision of Professor Sara Poot-Herrera. Not surprisingly, her dissertation focused on another Mexican trailblazer woman: Nellie Campobello (1900-1986), the author of one of the few chronicles of the Mexican Revolution from a woman's point of view.

Resolute, always with a joyful spirit and sense of humor, and adored by legions of students, Dr. Jefferson joined the Department of Spanish and Portuguese as a Lecturer in 1999, earning her position of Lecturer with Security of Employment in 2004, to the delight of everyone – her consistently outstanding ESCI scores became legendary.

Passionately dedicated to the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Dr. Jefferson served as Assistant to the Language Program Director between Winter 2010 and Fall 2012. She also served as Interim Language Program Director in Summer 2010 and Summer 2011. After the passing of her husband, she retired on July 1, 2017. She then returned to Monterrey to be with her family.

Esperanza’s joie de vivre left an indelible mark among all those who had the privilege to know her during the over three decades that she was at UCSB. Undergraduate and graduate students, staff members, her professors and colleagues all consistently mention her ability to make each one of us feel special, her kindness, her, simply put, being an exceptional human being.

Dr. Jefferson is survived by her siblings, nieces and nephews and will be dearly missed. ¡Descansa en paz Pera! Rest in Peace Pera!

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese will honor Dr. Esperanza Jefferson at a later date during Fall 2020. Our deepest condolences to the family.



Henry T. Yang