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Longtime UCSB Professor Luis Leal Dies at Age 102

A friend says the scholar leaves a legacy of 'gentleness, integrity ... and wonderful calmness'

Luis Leal, a renowned Chicano literature scholar at UCSB, died Monday at age 102.

Luis Leal
Luis Leal

Known as “Don Luis” by his colleagues and students, Leal was a scholar and professor of Mexican and Latin American literature.

He had published dozens of books, including Myths and Legends of Mexico at age 95, and hundreds of articles.

In 1995, UCSB created the Luis Leal Endowed Chair position in its Department of Chicano Studies, where Leal was a professor for decades.

He taught at the University of Mississippi, Emory University and the University of Illinois as well as being a research fellow at UCSB’s Chicano Studies Institute.

He was technically retired when he and his late wife, Gladys, moved to the South Coast, but offered courses because he championed the concept of Chicano literature, said friend Mario Garcia, a professor of Chicana and Chicano studies at UCSB.

Garcia also worked closely with Leal to document his life story in Luis Leal: An Auto/Biography.

“He was always generous with his time, and I learned so much from him,” Garcia wrote in an e-mail to Noozhawk. “I will always remember his gentleness, his integrity, his support of all and his wonderful calmness.”

Leal won the 1997 National Humanities Medal and many other honors from both the U.S. and Mexican governments.

He once told Garcia that “everyone contributes.”

“By that he meant that everyone, regardless of background, has something of value to contribute to society or to the academic world,” Garcia said.

“There was no superego in professor Leal. He appreciated the work of all. I’ll miss our informal chats, our lunches, our coffees, our dinners and just learning from him.”

Funeral arrangements are being made through Pueblo del Rey Funeral Services. Visitation will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday at First Christian Church, 1915 Chapala St. A graveside service will follow at 3 p.m. at Goleta Cemetery, 44 S. San Antonio Road. Plans for a campus memorial are under way.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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