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As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to a close, we have one more post from Christine Marin, Professor Emeritus, Historian and Archivist, ASU Library (she/her/hers)
It’s October 2022, Hispanic Heritage month !!…It’s the perfect month to recognize the remarkable scholar and distinguished linguist, Dr. Mary Juliette Escudero, Arizona State College in Tempe, now known as Arizona State University. Specializing in Romance Literature, and during the course of her studies, Prof. Escudero studied at the Institute of Phonetics and Linguistics at the Univ. of Paris and earned a French teaching diploma. She received the Ph.D. in Spanish Linguistics from Cornell University in New York in 1948. In that same year, Dr. Escudero was recognized for her scholarship and hired by Dr. Grady Gammage, President of Arizona State College, who wanted her to come West.
Dr. Maria Escudero is the first Mexican American AND the first Mexican American woman hired as an Assistant Professor at ASC/ASU. She began teaching Spanish in the Foreign Languages Department in 1948. Her dissertation, “Contemplación del Quijote” (“Contemplation of Quixote”), linked to her expertise of the writing style of Miguel de Cervantes, and her strengths in Romance Literature, caught the imagination of students who soon made Dr. Escudero a popular and well-respected faculty member in the department. She had a nice and easy way about her, teaching Spanish literature and linguistics in the classroom that matched her demeanor . What made her endearing was that she rode a bicycle to campus every day, a practice she kept since her student days as a college student while studying French in Paris, France in the mid-1940s. She was small in stature, but mighty in the classroom.
It wasn’t long after her arrival at Arizona State College in Tempe that Dr. Escudero became a faculty adviser to two important and progressive student organizations at ASC/ASU: “Los Conquistdores”, the first Mexican American student organization founded at ASC in 1939, whose interests in promoting the Mexican culture and Spanish language led them to become influenced by the progressive Mexican American civil rights organization in Maricopa County known as the Latin American Club, founded in 1947 by WW II veteran, Luís Cordova, a Mexican American railroad worker in Phoenix. And Dr. Escudero’s students of Spanish became active in ASC’s “La Liga Panamericana,” ( the Pan American League) an organization that promoted international good will and strong friendships with Latin American countries. Both student organizations, “Los Conquistadores” and “La Liga Panamericana” enabled students to participate in political, social, and academic activities that strengthened their bilingual skills and promoted academic leadership to help students open doors of economic opportunities for Mexican and Mexican American students in Arizona through scholarships and grants. By 1955, Dr. Escudero earned the rank of Associate Professor of Spanish, the first Mexican American faculty member to do so. She became Full Professor in 1967, and received Tenure in that same year. University records show that Dr. Maria Juliette Escudero is the first Mexican American Full Professor, AND the first Mexican American Female Professor to receive Tenure in 1967. — “Chiquita, pero picosa,” her students of Spanish described her: “small, but mighty”, they said proudly.
Sources: Arizona State College. Tempe. Bulletin. 1948-1950; Arizona State College. Tempe. Catalogs. 1953-1958; Arizona State University. General Catalogs, 1959-1980. ( University Archives. Hayden Library. Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona).