UCSB professor and internationally renowned scholar Luis Leal died on Jan. 25. He was 102.
Leal, who came to UCSB in 1976 as a retired Chican@ studies professor, was fondly known as Don Luis to the campus community. According to his colleagues, Leal’s devotion to furthering Chican@ studies made a lasting impact on the field and the academic world at large. Dept. Chair Aida Hurtado said Leal was not only an intellectual founder, but a hard worker in developing the field.
“I think his vision of education is what guides Chicana and Chicano Studies,” Hurtado said. “His commitment to social justice is the guiding post of the discipline. … Everything that’s here stems from that vision.”
Leal was honored with numerous awards throughout his lifetime, including the establishment of the Luis Leal Endowed Chair in 1995, a title Maria Herrera-Sobek, Chican@ studies professor and associate vice chancellor for Diversity, Equity & Academic Policy, currently holds. Leal also won the Order of the Aztec Eagle in 1991, a rare privilege granted to foreign citizens by the Mexican government.
Hurtado noted that Leal greatly influenced the academic community by revolutionizing Chican@ studies.
“He made Chicanos visible in the academy,” Hurtado said. “He brought the Chicano community into the academy as worthy of study.”
Aside from writing more than 45 books and 400 scholarly articles, Leal was also the subject of Chican@ studies professor Mario García’s book Luis Leal: An Auto/Biography.
Furthermore, Spanish and Portuguese Dept. Chair Francisco Lomelí said he considers Leal a key founder in contemporary Chicano literary criticism.
“He’s a great friend and a great intellect who really knew how to prioritize his research by sharing it with others,” Lomelí said. “He’s been the only person I know who has received up to twenty homages from colleagues, former students and students in general, which I think is a true testament to the admiration and respect that he garnered.”
Leal is survived by his son Antonio, two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
The Chican@ Studies Dept. will pay honor to Leal’s legacy this week by setting up an altar in the department’s library — located in South Hall — where students and staff can inscribe messages for Leal’s family. The library will also hold a viewing of the documentary on Leal’s life that was created for his 100th birthday celebration in 2007.
Visitation will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Feb. 1 at First Christian Church, 1915 Chapala St., Santa Barbara. A graveside service will follow at 3 p.m. at Goleta Cemetery, 44 S. San Antonio Rd., Goleta. The university is currently developing plans for a campus memorial.