I received a call that my mentor Professor Ramón Eduardo Ruiz had died on Tuesday, July 6. The caller was Olivia Ruiz, his daughter, whom I have known since she was a young girl. Without Prof. Ruiz, I would not have become a university professor. He selected me to be his first graduate student when he left Smith College in 1969 to join the faculty at the still developing University of California, San Diego. He guided me through my Ph.D. program and through my own personal ups and downs. He stood up for me when other faculty members did not.
After receiving Olivia’s call, I felt that I had inadequately responded to her father’s death.
“You knew each other for a long time,” she said to me. I said, “Yes, for quite some time.”
But I should have added how Ruiz served as a surrogate father for me. I looked up to him and patterned myself after him. But it went beyond appearance; it also included his deep commitment to social justice issues in the world and his hope for a world without war and aggression by the stronger nations against the weak ones.
He also was very proud of his Mexican heritage and proud that he could assist young Chicano scholars such as myself. He also made me proud to be of Mexican background.
Although I did not see or talk to him as much as I should have during the last few years, he was always in my thoughts and I always felt him looking over my shoulder still guiding me and counseling me. For what he did for me, I will always feel a deep sense of gratitude.
After I had first met him back at the University of Texas at El Paso, I wrote him a letter thanking him for taking the time to meet with me, then an M.A. student, and I told him how proud I was of meeting a historian of my own background. Prof. Ruiz wrote back to me, thanking me for my letter and telling me that he had never before received a letter such as mine. I was in awe receiving this reply. I hope that he is just as proud of me for sending this note.
Rest in peace Ramón with your beloved Natalia and thank you.