A Closer Look at the Tomãs Rivera Endowed Chair

By Catherine Szilagyi, Student Intern of CHASS College Computing

Professor of Creative Writing Juan Felipe Herrera has recently been awarded the position of Tomãs Rivera Endowed Chair, a mark of distinction only available at UCR, but recognized at universities across the nation. He is to take up this new position in the winter quarter of 2005.

The honor is one of many awards received by Professor Herrera. Yet this most recent distinction is something much more than an award to shelve away, or frame on the wall. The Tomãs Rivera Endowed Chair is very much an active and functional degree of merit. It is a position that requires one to have a rich legacy of creative writing scholarship and academic leadership, particularly in the area of Chicano/Latino culture.

The University provides many Endowed Chair titles in various disciplines, each position responsible for its particular academic emphasis. The Tomãs Rivera Endowed Chair functions to not only further the expansion of the Creative Writing Department, but it serves as a starting place from which to reach out to future generations of creative writers and cultivate their unspoken talents. The Tomãs Rivera Endowed Chair is probably the most powerful medium of Creative Writing outreach and education present at the University.

Tomãs Rivera was known for his contributions to the creative writing discipline as well as for tying those contributions in to his active role in the Chicano/Latino community. Like the late Tomãs Rivera himself, who in 1979 was one of the founders of the Mexican-American chancellorship in the United States at UC Riverside, Professor Herrera has contributed a great deal to the cultural and social aspects of the Chicano/Latino community. A prolific writer, he has 21 published works of poetry, prose, autobiography, children’s books, and a novel for young adults under his name. As a graduate of UCLA, Stanford and the University of Iowa, Professor Herrera is also a community arts leadership builder with youth-at-risk and migrant communities, and has appeared as a film and stage actor.

Professor Herrera’s appointment to Endowed Chair will provide him with more opportunities to further the ambitions of Tomãs Rivera by collaborating with the Special Collections Librarian at Rivera Library in order to publicize, supervise, and develop Rivera Library archives. He will also be responsible for the amount of education and outreach the Creative Writing Department will be coordinating. In the past, those who have been honored by this Endowed Chair were being given the opportunity to give back to the Chicano/Latino community, in their own way.

Now that the door has been opened to Professor Herrera, he has some particular accomplishments he would like to bring to this Endowed Chair’s name.

“We need to open up the door to as many people from as many cultural worlds as possible,” he remarked, in reference to new opportunities through his endowment. “Vision is truly what Rivera intended--let us futurize our humanity.”

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