In Memoriam - Janet Perez
The Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures ("CMLL") recently lost one of its most outstanding and cherished members. Dr. Janet Isabel Pérez passed away of complications from pancreatic cancer on Wednesday, May 18, 2016.
Dr. Janet Pérez (Ph.D. Duke) started at Texas Tech University in the fall of 1978. She was the Paul Whitfield Horn Professor of Romance Languages (1989) at Texas Tech and held the Qualia Chair of Spanish at CMLL from 2001 until her retirement in 2013. Aside from her multiple responsibilities as Full Professor at Texas Tech, she was Associate Dean of the Graduate School from 1985 until 2000, when she left the post to take over the duties of Editor of Hispania, the scholarly journal of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese ("AATSP"). Among the many awards and recognitions she received throughout her distinguished career were her selection as Corresponding Member of the Spanish Royal Academy of Letters, and having been elected "Miembro Honorario" of the Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española. Other awards included the Distinguished Leadership Award of the AATSP, the Texas Tech President's Academic Achievement Award, and the Barnie E. Rushing Faculty Distinguished Research Award, also at Texas Tech.
Her research covered several areas of Hispanic Literature, but her primary focus and energy was within the orbit of Contemporary (from 1898 to present) Spanish Peninsular Literature. In this area she was a true trailblazer. She was arguably the first American scholar to conduct research and write extensively on the literature of post Civil War Spain written by women and on Spanish literature of exile. All this work was done at a time when research in these areas was practically nonexistent. In this manner, her work impacted what was known in the United States about Spain at the time. These are some of the reasons she earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the nation's top scholars of Spanish Literature and helped carry forward the name and reputation of Texas Tech and the Department of CMLL.
Indeed, Dr. Pérez was one of the most accomplished and distinguished scholars to walk the halls of CMLL. Through her quiet and tireless scholarship, she built an amazing legacy that shall remain in the annals of Literary Research; yet to those who knew her in person, her most memorable legacy may have been her modesty and selflessness. Her role as mentor and friend to faculty and students has left an indelible mark on the academic and personal lives of many, particularly those who studied under her guidance and tutelage. She often said that one of her primary sources of inspiration was her students, and that she liked to think of herself as a "compulsive mentor". "I like 'people projects'," she would say, "speaking to incoming students, especially nontraditional students, making them aware of graduate school and its potential [. . .], letting them know that it is not something beyond their reach ...". Her colleagues were also beneficiaries of her mentoring and friendship. She always had time to reach out to them with advice, recommendations and support. Indeed, her impressive professional resume (which "abbreviated" version runs over 70 pages) would easily be matched and perhaps surpassed by her countless acts of friendship, kindness and consideration.
Dr. Pérez leaves a remarkable scholarly legacy, but perhaps her most memorable bequest is her exemplary humanity: Janet Pérez, scholar extraordinaire, amazing individual, invaluable colleague, and friend: Requiescat in Pace.
The Dr. Janet Perez Memorial Fund for the Texas Tech Spanish Graduate Program has been set up in memory of Dr. Janet Perez's for those who would like to make a gift in honor of her life and work. To make a memorial donation, click here.
Click here to read an article titled "Reflections from Dr. Perez", which appeared in Issue 3 of the CMLL Newsletter, Fall 2012.
Dr. Janet Perez's faculty page can be found here.